smoking-and-wound-healingThe list of harmful effects caused by smoking is long.  They include cancer, heart attack, stroke, emphysema, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease, among others.  Smoking may well be the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.

Many people don’t realize it, but smoking also causes wounds to heal more slowly.  Wounds need blood to properly heal, and Nicotene found in cigarettes clogs blood vessels, depriving wounds of the oxygen needed for proper healing.

When people smoke, their blood vessels constrict and become smaller.  The smaller vessels have a much more difficult time carrying oxygen, nutrients and other healing factors to the wound site.  This in turn leads to a slower and overall less efficient healing process.  For this reason, many surgeons recommend or even require their patients quit smoking a minimum of 3 days prior to surgery.  This allows oxygen time to begin building back up in the blood stream.

How is this important in terms of scarring you ask?  Well, wounds that heal more slowly and less efficiently are far more prone to become infected.  Wounds that become infected inevitably result in more prominent scarring.  Our bodies are designed to heal themselves naturally, but this only works if we take care of ourselves.