The Link Between Smoking and Venous Insufficiency

close up photography of a person holding cigarette

Venous insufficiency is a disorder that occurs when your leg veins do not allow blood to flow back into the heart. This disorder happens when the valves in the veins do not work correctly, and the blood accumulates in your leg. This process leads to discomfort, declined life quality, and unproductivity. One hundred fifty thousand new patients are diagnosed with chronic venous insufficiency yearly. Chronic venous insufficiency may lead to post-phlebitis syndrome and venous ulcers if left untreated. 

Following are some common symptoms of venous insufficiency: 

  • Swelling of ankles or legs
  • Pain when walking
  • Ulcers near your ankle
  • Brown discoloration of the skin, mostly around the ankle
  • Twisted or enlarged veins, Varicose veins
  • Muscle spasms or painful leg cramps.

Causes of Venous Insufficiency

Varicose veins or blood clots typically cause venous insufficiency. Other than that, it can be caused by:

  • Obesity, excessive fat accumulation
  • Pregnancy
  • Cancer, formation of abnormal cells
  • Muscle weakness
  • Leg injury due to any trauma
  • Genetics, family history of venous inefficiency, etc. 

In addition to these, smoking can also result in venous insufficiency. How are these linked?

Effects of smoking on veins

Smoking causes vasoconstriction, which decreases the diameter of the veins. Over time, this may lead to an increase in muscle tone permanently. As a result, blood has difficulty flowing through the vein. In addition, the carbon monoxide in veins decreases blood oxygen levels, leading to inflammation and damage in veins and thus causing venous insufficiency.

Effects of nicotine on your veins

When you smoke, your body develops a dependence on nicotine with time. As a result, your nicotine consumption will increase along the line, causing increased blood pressure and arteries hardening due to increased blood fat and cholesterol levels. 

Smoking causes venous thromboembolism

Venous thromboembolism or VTE is a term used to refer to blood clots in veins. Cigarette smoking is associated with a slight increase in the risk for VTE. Blood clots formed in veins may lead to venous insufficiency. 

Smoking leads to several cardiovascular diseases

If you smoke, you risk suffering from several cardiovascular diseases like varicose veins, atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, and Buerger disease. Studies show that tobacco smoking remains to be a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease, hence causing a large number of deaths worldwide.

Inflammation due to smoking

Your body fights against the harmful effects of smoking through white blood cells, which may further lead to inflammation of your veins.

Many other factors that cause venous insufficiencies, like menopause, age, or genetics, are inevitable, while smoking is entirely avoidable. If you already have a smoking addiction, you can turn on a new page in life with the help of medicines and by consulting a doctor who can help you through this journey.

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