How Does Smoking Impact Vein Health?
The effects of cigarette smoking can be seen in almost every organ of the body. Since smoking affects nearly every organ in the body, it’s no surprise that it can damage your blood vessels as well. For example, smoking a single cigarette can inhibit the toe’s microvessels for up to three hours, greatly restricting blood flow to it.
The chemicals in cigarettes have a number of adverse effects on your blood vessels. Nicotine, for instance, significantly increases the risk of blood clotting by restricting and hardening the arteries while other chemicals can make the blood thicker and impede the flow of oxygen. As a result, circulation is slowed throughout the body, raising the likelihood of an obstruction or blockage. We’ll walk you through some of the venous conditions that these side effects can cause.
Since it restricts circulation and narrows the walls of the blood vessels, varicose veins are a common side effect of smoking. These protruding veins can restrict blood flow to the heart, causing pain, swelling, and even ulceration in more severe cases. They can also be symptoms of more serious venous issues that require immediate medical attention.
Atherosclerosis is a cardiovascular disease that results in an accumulation of plaque in an artery. As the plaque expands, it occupies more of the artery, limiting its ability to pump blood. Since smoking can weaken your heart and tighten the blood vessels, it greatly increases your risk of developing atherosclerosis.
Coronary Artery Disease
A more severe form of atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease occurs when plaque builds up in the coronary arteries. If the growth is ruptured, it can cause a blood clot that limits or prevents blood flow in the coronary artery, depriving the heart of blood. Like atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease can cause chest pain, an irregular heartbeat, heart attack, or heart failure.
Peripheral Artery Disease
Another form of atherosclerosis, peripheral artery disease is also caused by a collection of plaque in the arteries. While it can be managed more easily than coronary heart disease, it still puts patients at a higher risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart disease.
A relatively rare condition, Buerger disease results in chronic inflammation of the arteries and veins in the lower limbs and feet. It most often occurs in patients who regularly smoke or chew tobacco. The inflammation severely restricts blood flow to the extremities, and can even necessitate amputation in the most serious cases.
As severe as these disorders are, most can be avoided by immediately stopping smoking. Your blood’s oxygen levels will normalize within eight hours of smoking your last cigarette, and your circulation will improve dramatically within two weeks.
Nevertheless, a history of smoking can still cause permanent damage to your veins. If you’re a former smoker who’s struggled with poor circulation, contact a vein specialist today to set up an examination.