What Is A Smoker’s Leg?

Smoking leads to many health problems, one of which is smoker’s leg. Medications can be used to treat a smoker’s leg. Surgery can also help if other treatments fail, but the only way to prevent it is to quit smoking.

What Is A Smoker's Leg

Now, we know that’s easier said than done, but, hopefully, hearing about the symptoms of this often debilitating ailment here today will help to inspire you to stub out for good!

We will discuss in this article the causes and symptoms of smoker’s leg. This article also looks at the treatment and prevention of this condition, with the aim of giving you a better understanding of smoker’s leg as a whole.

Interesting Information About The Smoker’s Leg

Smoker’s leg is the common term for the medical condition, PAD (Peripheral Arterial Disease).

While PAD isn’t associated with smoking exclusively, people who smoke are far more likely to get PAD than those who do not smoke. Quitting smoking dramatically lowers your risk of developing smoker’s leg.

About 8 million Americans have PADS. Most people with PAD have other risk factors such as drinking dependencies, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.

Some people with PAD also have coronary heart disease. This condition affects blood flow to the legs and feet. Smoking cessation appears to reduce the risk of PAD.

Former smokers have a 3 times increased risk of PAD compared to lifetime non-smokers, which sounds scary, but you’re never too far gone. Stop today, and you’ll be giving yourself the best possible chance of avoiding PAD.

You may never be on even keel with those who have never smoked, but quitting will absolutely help reduce the risk of smoker’s leg. Just take a look at these statistics:

  • Smoking less than 15 cigs/day increases your risk by 9x.
  • Smoking more than 15 cigs/d increases your risk by 17x.

So, as you can see, not smoking at all, no matter how much you have done in the past, reduces PAD risk dramatically.

There are many reasons why people smoke. Some people start when they’re young and then quit later. Others start out quitting but go back to it.

Sometimes people smoke because they want to relax after work or before bedtime. People who smoke may be trying to control weight or manage stress.

And sometimes people smoke to make themselves feel better about being overweight or having high cholesterol. 

But whatever your reasons for smoking, they’re never good enough to put yourself and those around you in danger.

Doctors should be careful to look for the signs and symptoms of PADs in patients who smoke. Smoking leads to PADS, in part, by causing chronic inflammation in the blood vessel walls.

Patients suffering from PADS often experience leg pain during exercise, leg sores that do not heal, feelings of cold or numbness, and hair loss or slow hair growth on the legs and feet.

Once PADS is diagnosed, people often benefit from lifestyle changes to improve their overall cardiovascular health, including eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Aspirin or other medication may also be used to help prevent blood clots. 

In some cases, drugs prescribed by doctors can help patients suffering from leg pains. Doctors sometimes recommend angioplasty or other procedures to treat problems in the leg arteries.

Patients who get these treatments often need to use crutches or wheelchairs after the procedure.

Causes

The arterial occlusive disease results from inflammation of the arterial walls (arteriosclerosis), which leads to thrombus adsorption and ultimately obliteration of the arterial walls. In most cases, the medium and small arteries of the extremities are affected.

Nicotine abuse (cigarette smoking) is a major risk factor for the development of arteriosclerosis and constitutes the primary cause of PAD in many patients.

Nevertheless, PAD can occur in non-smokers as well, so the term smoker’s leg isn’t always appropriate. It’s kind of like the term tennis elbow.

You may well get it if you play tennis, but any act that requires repetitive motions can trigger it.

What Are The Symptoms Of PAD?

A common symptom of peripheral vascular disease is pain or discomfort in the legs. The disease affects about half of the population. Walking may also make you feel tired or weak.

Areas of the legs impacted by this condition may include your calves, thighs, and buttocks.

PAD can be insidious, developing slowly over time, meaning the symptoms may not be apparent for several decades. In fact, many people won’t experience outward symptoms until their arteries have narrowed by more than 60%.

Lifestyle Changes To Help Prevent Smoker’s Leg

The effects of smoking on the leg of a person can be reduced by adopting certain measures. The following are a few of them.

  • Engaging in regular physical activity: Your physician may recommend regular exercise under a trainer’s supervision. You can do leg exercises, walk regularly, and use a treadmill to exercise.

  • Stopping smoking: Among the most common risk factors for PAD is smoking cigarettes. By stopping smoking, you may reduce the risk of complications associated with PAD and slow down its progression.
  • Reaching or maintaining a moderate body weight: Overweight or obese individuals are more likely to develop smoker’s leg.
  • Eating a balanced diet: High cholesterol levels are common among people with PAD. If you eat a healthy, balanced diet low in cholesterol and trans fats, and rich in vegetables and fruits, you will be able to reduce your blood cholesterol levels.
  • Avoiding certain cold medications: Medications available over the counter that contain pseudoephedrine, a decongestant, may constrict blood vessels and worsen symptoms.

Medications Offered To Help

In order to reduce pain and other symptoms of a smoker’s leg, a prescription should be given. Pletal, daily aspirin, clopidogrel, ACE inhibitors, and blood pressure-lowering drugs are prescribed. Patients are also given diabetes medications.

Surgery As A Last Resort

Angioplasty, stent, and vascular bypass surgery are used by doctors when other treatments fail. Angioplasty increases blood flow throughout the body by expanding an artery.

A stent is placed inside an artery to hold open the blocked section. Vascular bypass surgery reroutes blood flow around a blockage. 

Quitting smoking is the most important thing to do to prevent a smoker’s leg. The other things listed here are helpful but aren’t as essential. 

But, if you can pair quitting smoking with reaching and maintaining moderate weight, and eating a balanced diet, you’ll have the best possible chance of avoiding smoker’s leg. 

However, if a person has difficulty walking or their legs become pale and discolored with no pulsation, they should seek immediate medical attention.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, we will attempt to explain any other questions you may have about PAD.

What Can You Do To Quit Smoking?

Quitting smoking on your own can be incredibly tough, but you don’t have to do it alone! Search online or locally for support groups, and do plenty of research on the quitting techniques.

What Are The Risks Of Surgery For Smoker’s Leg?

No matter the procedure, surgery is always more complicated for smokers due to their increased risk of blood clots, healing difficulties, and postoperative infection rates.

If your doctor thinks that surgery is the best route for you, you will be made aware of the risks, two of which or increased chances of having a stroke or heart attack.

What Is PAD?

The typical symptom of PAD is called “claudication,” a medical term that refers to pain in your leg that comes on with walking or exercise and goes away with rest. The pain occurs because your leg muscles aren’t getting enough oxygen.

What Are The Consequences Of PAD?

The dangers of PAD extend well beyond difficulties in walking, and the consequences can be far worse than missing a shopping trip or golf game. PAD sufferers are far more likely to experience a stroke or heart attack than healthy individuals.

Can Smoking Cause Leg Cramps When Walking?

It has been proven that excessive smoking can result in a smokers’ leg. As a result of this circulatory disorder, blood vessels narrow and restrict blood flow to the lower limbs. Smokers’ legs may cause leg pain or cramps when walking due to a reduction in the blood flow to the leg.

How Old Do You Have To Be To Get A Smoker’s Leg?

The probability of getting a smoker’s leg at an extremely young age is quite low, but as soon as you reach half a century, your chances of developing it skyrocket, especially if you’re a smoker.

How Can I Prevent Smoker’s Leg?

Changing your lifestyle, eating a balanced diet, and achieving/maintaining a moderate weight can prevent smoker’s legs from developing, but quitting smoking should be your number one priority.

Summary

If you read all of this information about Smoker’s Legs and about PAD, you should now be able to better understand what these conditions mean and all of the risks associated with them. 

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms or are concerned you may soon, then you now know about the measures you can take to help minimize the effects of PAD, as well as the support you can obtain while suffering.

Jonie Dean
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