Smoking can decelerate your body’s natural wound healing process.

Smoking is often admonished by healthcare professionals for its ability to cause serious diseases, but puffing on a cigarette does more than just increase your risk for developing cancer and emphysema – it can also decelerate your body’s natural wound healing process. According to the American Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Society, smokers face a steeper uphill battle than their non-smoking counterparts when it comes to recovering from injuries or surgeries, a process that can already be arduous depending on the severity of the wound. Read on to discover three key ways a smoking habit can get in the way of a successful medical recovery.

1. Smoking prevents wounds from receiving enough oxygen 
Few elements are as crucial to the healing process as oxygen. After being inhaled, oxygen travels through the blood stream to the wound, where it becomes essential in the biological battle to fight infection, regenerate tissue and return to health.

Smoking, however, holds the body back from being able to win this battle. The chemicals found in cigarettes – and cigarette smoke – can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems, both of which can reduce the amount of oxygen that tissue is able to receive, explained the National Health Service. Cigarettes also cause users to inhale carbon monoxide, which connects to red blood cells and prevents adequate amounts of oxygen from passing through the bloodstream.

2. Smoking raises blood sugar levels
Heightened blood sugar levels have numerous medical consequences, one of which is a deceleration of the wound healing process. According to Wound Care Centers, high blood sugar, which can be caused by smoking, creates arterial stiffness and narrows the blood vessels.

An elevated blood sugar level can also make red bloods cells cluster together. Cell clumps are often unable to pass through capillaries, which can result in a lack of sufficient blood flow to healing wounds.

3. Smoking can cause patients to experience increased pain
Wound healing can be achy for anyone, but normal pain levels can be greatly exacerbated in patients with smoking habits. The American Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Society noted that cigarette-related chemicals have been shown to negatively impact the way bodies understand “pain signals.” Smoking can also aggravate inflammation, which can boost pain and add to the difficulties of the healing process.

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