According to World Health Organization, tobacco kills more than 8 million people globally every year. We all know tobacco is one of the most widely-abused substances in the world and it can have severe health impacts. It’s also well-documented that smoking wreaks havoc on your entire musculoskeletal system. Tobacco contains nicotine, an ingredient that can lead to addiction, which is why many people find it difficult to quit.
In general, people think that tobacco only affects their respiratory and circulation system, but it can affect a number of systems in human body such as musculoskeletal system, nervous system, immune system, reproductive system, the skin, and eyes. It also increases the risk of many different cancers.
Bone Healing and Growth
Tobacco consumption increases the risk of developing osteoporosis as the nicotine in particular, can slow the production of bone formation. It breaks down estrogen (a key ingredient in building and maintaining a healthy skeleton) more quickly and makes the bone brittle and more vulnerable to fractures.
Unfortunately, for smokers who do suffer fractures, it can delay or even prevent the bone from healing, as smoking decreases the body’s absorption of Calcium, which is necessary for vital cellular functions and bone health. Nicotine also decreases the size of the blood vessels which results in fewer nutrients reaching the bone.
Surgery and Recovery
Tobacco actually has many adverse effects on the musculoskeletal system, particularly on the outcomes after an orthopaedic surgery.
Smoking before surgery puts you at a higher risk for postoperative heart attacks, blood clots, pneumonia and even death.
Your body gets less oxygen, because hemoglobin (a molecule that carries oxygen throughout the body) cannot carry as much oxygen as usual when it is exposed to tobacco.
Chemicals in cigarette smoke limit the activity of infection-fighting cells called neutrophils, which increases the risk of infection up to 4 times than nonsmokers.
Nerve problems (tingling, numbness, pain) can be worse in tobacco users, who also have other conditions such as diabetes. Tobacco users are more prone to nerve damage and will likely experience severe symptoms from a nerve related condition than others. They are also more likely to have continued symptoms of nerve pain even after surgery.
Tobacco consumption worsens any nerve disease such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tardy ulnar nerve palsy, peripheral neuropathy, etc.
Chronic smokers are at equal risk to develop new neurological and neurovascular complications such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, vascular dementia and small vessel ischemic disease (SVID).
It has been discovered that the chemicals in cigarettes destroy collagen and elastin. With the loss of these fibers, the skin will begin to lose its elasticity and strength. Nicotine can stain fingers and nails making them brown or yellow in color.
As a result of tobacco consumption, the cells and antibodies that protect your body and wound against bad bacteria become weak, which makes it easier for your wound to become infected.
Any form of tobacco use increases the formation of plaque in blood vessels. Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) occurs when arteries that carry blood to the heart muscle are narrowed by plaque or blocked by clots. Chemicals in cigarette smoke cause the blood to thicken and easily form clots inside veins and arteries.
The chemicals in tobacco smoke damage the delicate lining of the lungs and can cause permanent damage that reduces the ability of the lungs to exchange air efficiently. This can ultimately lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema.
Tobacco use significantly worsens other major health challenges such as tuberculosis, HIV infection, and mental illness.
Tobacco use also causes many types of cancer, including cancer of lung, larynx (voice box), mouth, esophagus, throat, bladder, kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas, colon and rectum, and cervix, as well as acute myeloid leukemia.
Tobacco consumption leads to a much wider range of health problems than the ones we saw above and there are many more to discover yet by the health community. The treatment for most of the diseases that are caused or aggravated by tobacco abuse, is primarily tobacco cessation, particularly by encouraging and supporting quitting.
Nicotine patches and other nicotine products such as chewing gum need to be avoided at all cost, as it is not the tar in the cigarettes that causes problems, but the nicotine itself. There are helplines available such as Quitline, which provide free coaching – over the phone – for the people who are trying tobacco cessation.
Carolina Regional Orthopaedics provides the most effective, modern, and innovative techniques in both Orthopedic Surgery and Pain Management using proven methodologies in both the surgical and non-surgical treatment of all conditions affecting the spine, upper extremities, and lower extremities. We specialize in hand and wrist surgery, joint replacements, sports medicine, trauma care, pediatric orthopedics, pain management, wound care, regenerative medicine, physical therapy, imaging services, and EMG testing.