We all know that cigarette smoking can lead to a number of gruesome effects such as heart disease and lung cancer, but one of the lesser acknowledged possibilities is that of amputation. Amputation of a limb isn’t a rare side effect, either. In fact, as many as 25 people in the UK have a leg amputated due to cigarette smoking every single day. That’s a little over one every hour, or roughly 9,000 every year.
The cause of the amputation is a simple one. It comes down to Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD), which occurs when there is a build-up of fatty deposits on the walls of the arteries in the legs. When this happens, the muscles in the legs only receive a restricted supply of blood, which in turn can cause the leg tissue to die. If the situation gets bad enough, PAD results in gangrene and potential amputation.
While PAD doesn’t only affect smokers, it’s estimated that 90 percent of those suffering from the condition are past or current cigarette smokers. One of the main problems with PAD is that half of all sufferers won’t even know they have the disease until they have a heart attack or stroke.
The British Heart Foundation’s Associate Medical Director, Dr Mike Knapton, outlined some of the difficulties of PAD:
“Peripheral arterial disease can lead to horrific consequences and the silent nature of the condition means that opportunities to diagnose and treat it are often missed.” He went on to explain that the best way to reduce the risk of suffering from this disease is to quit smoking.
Regular smokers who are concerned about their risk for PAD can consult their GP about getting checked.