Cigarette harms you didn’t know about
Most people know that smoking causes a multitude of cancers as well as heart attacks and strokes. But there are many other smoking-related health harms we don’t hear so much about that are also devastating to quality of life, some of which can be life threatening. Here is a list of just some of the lesser known harms from smoking.
Smoking reduces bone density in both men and women. It reduces the blood supply to the bones and slows the production of bone-forming cells so they make less bone. This is a big problem because less bone density means weaker bones that are more likely to fracture. The risk of hip fracture amongst all smokers is higher than that of non-smokers, but it becomes a concerning issue in the elderly. At age 80, smokers have a 71% higher likelihood than non-smokers to have a hip fracture. The best thing you can do to decrease your risk of reduced bone density and resulting fractures is to quit smoking – at any age.
Smokers have double the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis of non-smokers. Rheumatoid arthritis causes painful swelling of the joints and can be extremely debilitating. It can result in joint damage and deformity. Early diagnosis, treatment and quitting smoking can limit joint damage. Smoking can interfere with the effectiveness of rheumatoid arthritis treatments and is associated with more severe rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Stopping smoking is the best thing you can do if you want to improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Quitting smoking can reduce the likelihood of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
Gum disease and tooth loss
Gum disease is an infection of the gums that can result in tooth loss. Smoking weakens the body’s immune system so it isn’t as effective at fighting infection. Once the gum is infected, smoking also makes it harder for the gums to heal. Infections can result in loose teeth that may need to be pulled out. Smokers have up to five times the risk of gum disease compared to non-smokers. The more cigarettes smoked, the greater the risk of gum disease. But gum disease can be prevented through good dental habits including quitting smoking. And individuals with gum disease who quit smoking respond much better to treatment than those who continue to smoke.
- A word of warning: Smokers might not notice they have gum disease because their gums may not bleed. This is because smoking can cause poor blood supply to the gums.
- Fertility – Smoking can affect both men’s and women’s fertility. In fact, it affects every stage in the reproductive process. Both sperm and eggs can be harmed by the toxins in tobacco smoke, which include heavy metals. Men who smoke have a lower sperm count than those who are non-smokers. Quitting smoking increases the chance of conceiving. It is also beneficial if neither partner is a smoker.
- Erectile disfunction (impotence) – There is a strong correlation between the amount a man smokes and the severity of erectile disfunction. As smoking damages the blood vessels, there can be poor arterial blood supply to the penis. Stopping smoking can improve function in many cases, but heavy smoking in older men appears to cause more severe erectile disfunction that is often not reversible after quitting smoking.
- Ectopic pregnancy – Ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that occurs outside the uterus, generally in one of the fallopian tubes, and very rarely in the cervix. Cigarette smoking is a major risk factor for ectopic pregnancy, but the reason for this remains unclear. In almost all cases of ectopic pregnancy, the embryo dies. Ectopic pregnancy sometimes causes a medical emergency when the fallopian tube ruptures, leading to life-threatening internal bleeding. Quitting smoking reduces the likelihood of ectopic pregnancy.
Reducing your likelihood of smoking-related illness
The best way to reduce your risk of smoking-related illness is to quit smoking. That is often easier said than done, but you don’t have to go it alone. The quit your way page provides a number of quitting options and strategies so you can choose a method that is right for you. You can also call Quitline on 13 78 48 and speak to a trained professional or download the My QuitBuddy app. And GPs, pharmacists, family members and friends are often great sources of support.