Peripheral Artery Disease
Smoking Facts About Occlusive Atherosclerosis Disease
Peripheral artery disease can occur in either the legs or the arms.
It is also called peripheral vascular disease and is one of the many diseases caused by smoking.
It results from the progression of hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis disease.
In PAD there is a gradual reduction in blood flow to the legs (or arms) resulting in ischemia that can cause pain and skin necrosis. Sometimes amputation is needed.
Atherosclerosis disease or
hardening of the arteries can be so severe that it blocks arterial blood flow.
Smokers have a particularly strong risk of PAD. Other risk factors include lack of exercise and diabetes. If you smoke, are inactive, and have diabetes your risk for
developing PAD is amplified many times.
What is Skin Necrosis?
The term necrosis refers to death of body tissue.
In the case of occlusive PAD, skin necrosis can occur from the lack of blood flow.
Gangrene will occur if a substantial amount of tissue necrosis is present.
How long does it take to develop gangrene?
It can happen very quickly once the blood flow is completely cut off.
For the type of gangrene caused by smoking, it can
happen in a matter of days or weeks.
Gangrene can be extremely painful.
- Smoking is the main risk factor for PAD and contributes to about 75% of all cases.
- Experts estimate that the risk of peripheral vascular disease may be as much as 16 times higher in smokers than in non-smokers.
- If you have already been diagnosed with PAD, the risk of heart attack or stroke is estimated to be about 4 - 5 times greater than if you were a smoker without peripheral vascular disease.
- If the condition is not ameliorated and tissue ischemia persists, skin necrosis can result. Since necrosis is not a reversible condition
sometimes the only option is amputation.
Quitting Smoking Facts about PAD
- quitting smoking slows down the progression of the disease.
- the longer the time period since your last cigarette the less chance you have of developing PAD.
- If you continue to smoke after diagnosis with PAD you have an 11 fold increase in the risk of losing a limb
compared to non-smokers or smoker who quit.1
Some estimates suggest that 80-90% of peripheral artery disease cases will subside with proper treatment that must include:
- cessation of smoking
- improvement in the physical activity level.
- treatment of underlying co-morbid conditions such as diabetes
Smoking Facts from the Experts
"Cigarette smoking is one of the most important risk factors for the development and progression of PAD and the cessation of smoking in addition to reducing the risk of
myocardial infarction and death, also reduces the risk of progression to critical limb ischemia and limb loss."1
"Cigarette smoking is the most powerful risk factor predisposing to atherosclerotic peripheral vascular disease."2
More Smoking Facts about PAD and Diabetes
Diabetes is also a risk factor for developing peripheral artery disease.
If you smoke and have diabetes, your
risk for developing hardening of the arteries increases exponentially.
by Beverly OMalley
- Teo, K.K. presentation at the Canadian Cardiovascular Society Consensus Conference (2005)
Peripheral Artery Disease Consensus Document - Section 4
- 2004 report of the US Surgeon General