Did you know that many hand conditions may be aggravated by smoking? This habit can also inhibit healing after hand surgery or other treatments.
Whether you smoke cigarettes, e-cigarettes, pipes or cigars, the nicotine you inhale can negatively affect your fingers, hands and upper extremities. The health consequences of smoking may not be immediate or visually apparent, but regularly lighting up can contribute to a variety of adverse conditions.
Smoking Is Linked with Multiple Issues that Affect the Hands
Researchers have found that smoking is associated with several health conditions that can involve problems in the hands. If you’re a smoker, you have a greater risk of developing the following:
- Reduced blood flow to the fingers and hands
- Poor circulation
- Slow wound healing
- Complications during the healing process
In addition, smoking has been statistically linked with complex regional pain syndrome, formerly known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy. This condition, which can occur after trauma or surgery, causes intense pain — often a burning or pins-and-needles sensation — along with swelling and blood vessel dysfunction. Dupuytren’s contracture, an abnormal thickening of the palm tissue, is also more common in smokers.
Smoking Can Worsen Some Hand Conditions
For patients who already have known hand conditions, smoking can make the problem worse.
For example, disorders resulting from added pressure on a nerve are often worse in smokers who have circulation problems. Smoking can also hinder healing, particularly for upper-extremity fractures. In some smokers, broken bones never completely heal. And nicotine intake has been shown to increase hand tremors.
Smoking and Hand Surgery
Doctors recommend that patients quit smoking to improve their overall health. What you may not realize, however, is that quitting the habit is particularly important if you’re in need of hand surgery.
Smoking compromises the healing process, extending the surgery recovery period and increasing the risk of complications. To avoid this, you’ll be advised to quit a week or two before having a surgical procedure. Depending upon your health status and the specifics of your hand surgery, you may even be asked to take a nicotine test for proof that you have stopped smoking.
If you’d like to give up your smoking habit to improve your health or a specific upper-extremity condition, your hand surgeon can offer resources and tips to help. If you live the greater Salt Lake City area, schedule an appointment with Dr. J. Douglas Burrows at the Center of Orthopedic & Rehabilitation Excellence for expert advice on preventing hand conditions and preparing for hand surgery.
Dr. Burrows, a leading northern Utah hand surgeon with more than 20 years of experience, is known for providing exceptional treatment and compassionate care. For more information on how your hand conditions may be affected by smoking, contact our West Valley City office today to schedule a consultation.