Smokers Leg

What’s a Smokers Leg? Symptoms, Causes, Prevention and Therapy

Heavy smokers are often threatened by various diseases. Due to lack of oxygen, circulatory disorders and increased mucus formation, the affected smokers often suffer from smoker’s cough or smoker’s legs.

What is a smokers leg?

The technical term for the smoker’s leg is peripheral arterial occlusive disease (PADD). PAVK causes narrowing of the arteries. The smoker’s leg is thus triggered by arteriosclerosis, also known as arteriosclerosis.

Due to the narrowing of the arteries, the blood can no longer flow unhindered and the tissue is not sufficiently supplied with oxygen. In the worst case, the patient is threatened with amputation of the affected limbs.

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How does a smokers leg manifest itself?

The smoker’s leg results from the occlusion of arteries and is also called peripheral arterial occlusive disease (PADD) or “shop window disease”. Why shop window disease? Due to stabbing pain in the legs, it is difficult for those affected to walk longer distances without pain. As a result, they often have to take a break while walking. To avoid attracting attention, they then look at the shop windows.

The main cause of calf pain is circulatory problems, which can also be caused by smoking. There are some typical symptoms that will tell you if it is a smoker’s leg. The symptoms are divided into four stages and an acute emergency.

First stage

In the first stage very often no discomfort or pain is felt. Therefore, the smoker’s leg often goes unnoticed in the initial stage.

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 Second stage

The first sign of a smoker’s leg is a stabbing pain in the legs. The pain can occur both in the thigh area and in the calves. Depending on where exactly the artery is closed, pain may also occur in the buttocks and feet. In addition, the skin becomes pale when the legs are raised and red-blue when they are lowered. Other signs are changes to the toenails and loss of hair on the legs. The legs and feet are also often perceived as very cold by those affected.

Third stage

In the third stage of the smoker’s leg, the typical pain occurs even when the body is at rest.

Fourth stage

At this stage, even the smallest injuries do not heal properly. There is an increased risk of severe inflammation, tissue damage and even tissue death.

Acute emergency

The final stage is reached when the artery closes completely due to blood clots or calcifications. Paralysis, circulatory shock and tissue death are the consequences of an untreated emergency. In acute cases, it may even be necessary to amputate legs, feet or toes.

Preventing the development of a smoker’s leg at an early stage

There are different risk factors involved in the development of the smoker’s leg. These include smoking. Other factors that favour the development of the smoker’s leg are lack of exercise, poor diet, high cholesterol, diabetes, gout and obesity. 

The attentive reader might have noticed that many of the mentioned risk factors cause each other. The consumption of heavy digestible animal trans fats makes you feel lazy and flabby. 

That leads to a lack of movement and lets the amout of cholesterine shoot into the height. The secondary diseases are diabetes, gout and obesity. Smoking gives the body additional toxins and removes oxygen, which in the worst case can lead to smoker’s leg or smoker’s cough.

Is the smoker’s leg curable?

Whether a therapy is effective with PAVK depends on the stage at which the treatment begins. Treatment in the first two stages can be performed without surgery.

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Treatment in the first stage

The therapy in the first stage is primarily intended to combat the causes. If the patient is a smoker, smoking cessation is carried out first. A healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables is recommended. 

Animal products should be avoided to a large extent. In addition a sufficient oxygen supply is crucial for the healing. Therefore walks in the fresh air as well as breathing exercises are very healing-promoting. If these measures are not sufficient, additional medication may be administered.

Treatment in stages two and three

Here the therapy consists of letting the patient walk a certain distance in consultation with the attending physician. Exercise therapy should be largely painless. If the patient is already suffering from severe pain, medication is also administered to alleviate the pain and improve blood circulation.

End-stage treatment

In the fourth stage and in the final stage, the arteries are surgically dilated. With the help of a catheter, the narrowed area of the artery is stretched again to ensure unhindered blood flow. 

However, if the narrowing in the artery is too rigid or extends over a very long section, the deposit can be removed. If the arteriosclerosis is so advanced that the tissue dies, the last possibility is amputation.

What is the probable age of getting a smoker’s leg?

You do not have to fear a smoker’s leg until you are 50 years old. It has been scientifically proven that a smoker’s leg can occur in male patients before the age of 55.

The probability of getting a smoker’s leg at a very young age is low. However, due to hereditary predisposition, it can also occur in young people. The greater the risk factors, the earlier the process of vascular calcification begins.

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Are there alternatives to medication and surgery?

At the beginning of the disease a therapy with alternative healing methods without medication is possible. You can achieve a lot with a healthy, fibre-rich and balanced diet. A healthy amount of exercise also promotes healing.

For example, you can start with light walks and deep breaths in nature. Yoga is also very good for the oxygen supply of your body. In yoga you combine the movements with deep and even breaths. You don’t just supply your body with oxygen. Through the relaxing movements you also reduce the desire for smoke.

How to strengthen your arteries

You will get healthy and strong arteries, for example, if you practice regular hot-cold alternating showers or treading water. Omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins A, C and E, calcium, magnesium and sodium are particularly recommended for decalcifying your arteries.

 Dietary fibre helps you digest, green tea stimulates your metabolism and has a positive effect on your cholesterol level.


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