Smoking can damage blood vessel walls, making it more difficult for your heart to pump blood to your hands and feet. In serious cases, this can lead to peripheral vascular disease (PVD).
PVD occurs when the arteries that carrry blood to your legs or arms become partially or totally blocked by the build up of fatty material on your artery wall. This may result in severe pain, especially when exercising. Other symptoms may include numbness, weakness or a feeling of heaviness in your legs, cool patches of skin on your feet or legs, sores or ulcers on your feet that do not heal properly, and brittle toenails. PVD can also lead to gangrene and amputation.
Quitting reduces your risk of developing PVD, compared to a continuing smoker. Quitting slows down the worsening of PVD in those who have the disease. They live longer, have less pain and more likely to avoid amputation. The earlier you quit, the lower your risk of developing symptoms of PVD.