Smoking vs. Vaping for Vein Health
While billed as being a safer alternative to tobacco products, vaping might still come with its own set of health concerns when it comes to vein health.
If your vein health is a concern, you may already know that smoking can worsen your condition. Of course, smoking is unhealthy for many reasons — according to the Center for Disease Control, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Medical professionals have known for a long time that smoking tobacco is bad for your lungs and can lead to a variety of severe conditions, from lung disease to several different types of cancer. But it’s also true that smoking takes a toll on your circulation, including arteries and veins.
You may be curious if vaping is a better choice than smoking when it comes to vein health. When electronic cigarettes came onto the scene, they were billed as being a safer alternative to tobacco-based products because they don’t involve combustion, the process that creates the harmful tar that builds up in the lungs over time. However, it’s not yet clear whether vaping is a better choice for your circulatory system. Here’s what we currently know about how smoking and vaping affect vein health.
Effects of Smoking on Vein Health
Cigarettes contain thousands of chemicals, many of which are toxic. The most well known of these chemicals is nicotine, which, in addition to causing addiction, is a stimulant that increases blood pressure. Nicotine also triggers the release of cholesterol into the bloodstream, which hardens blood vessels and arteries.
The chemicals in tobacco products also increase the risk of developing venous diseases by reducing both the levels of oxygen in the blood and causing the blood to become thicker — a combination that can lead to the formation of spider and varicose veins.
The veins in your legs help to maintain and regulate proper blood flow throughout the body, and while varicose veins can be painful or make you self-conscious, they also restrict the circulation of blood returning to the heart. If left untreated, this can even lead to ulcerations on the legs.
Effects of Vaping on Vein Health
Many people have made the switch to e-cigarettes because they recognize the health hazards of smoking. But while the health hazards of smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products are well documented, the potential risks of vaping and e-cigarettes, on the other hand, are still relatively unknown. This fact came to national attention in 2019 when more than 2,500 people across the country were hospitalized with vaping-related illnesses.
While the majority of those illnesses and death were traced back to the presence of Vitamin E acetate — a thickening agent in the vaping cartridges that the FDA says is “prudent to avoid inhaling” — that doesn’t mean that e-cigarettes in general are off the hook. The ingredients in e-cigarettes vary by brand and flavoring, but the two primary ingredients are propylene glycol and glycerol — chemicals that are known to become toxic when heated to high temperatures.
But does this mean vaping degrades vein health? More research is needed, but one recent study did find that vaping causes temporarily impaired circulation, less oxygenated blood, and stiffer arteries. This “toxic immune response” in the endothelium, or the lining of the blood vessels, occurs even when the e-cigarettes were free of nicotine. Overall, vaping constricts blood vessels and disrupts how the cardiovascular system functions. When blood flow is slowed in this way, it can lead to pooling blood, which is directly associated with varicose vein formation. However, note that these studies showed only momentary drops in vein function — there is not yet data on the long-term impact vaping has on circulation.
Quitting for Vein Health
If you smoke or vape, you should stay informed about the effects your habit may have on your vein health. If you’re looking for a consultation about vein health — and solutions for existing varicose veins — contact us today to make an appointment. At Vein911, the teams of experienced specialists at each of our four locations can help you understand which minimally invasive procedure might be the best fit for your condition.