Diseases Caused by Smoking From Head to Toe

Long List of Illnesses and Conditions Associated with Smoking

Man drinking whisky and smoking
What diseases are caused by smoking?. Image Source/Digital Vision/Getty Images

There are many diseases caused by smoking. Even though tobacco is linked most strongly with lung cancer per public opinion, it is more likely to lead to heart disease or other health problems. And it's not just major diseases that may occur, smoking can lead to wrinkled skin or have social implications. Smoking takes its toll from head to toe. And if you think you’re safe because you’re young, guess again.

Statistics Don't Give the Whole Picture

As you tour the body here, keep in mind that this is a list of specific diseases. It doesn’t talk about general health or how you might experience the symptoms caused by the conditions linked with smoking. For example, if you smoke and end up needing surgery for a condition caused by smoking, your ability to heal will be inferior to that of a non-smoker. And if you have pain for any reason, whether smoking-related or not, it appears that smoking can make that pain worse.

Let’s take a look at some of the diseases that are associated with smoking from head to toe, as well as its affect on mental health and social well-being.

Your Head

Headaches are bad enough, but the risk of a stroke or Alzheimer’s disease might make you think twice before lighting up. If you smoke and drink alcohol, the combination can be more than additive when it comes to damaging your health.

Your Eyes

An increased risk of cataracts is bad enough, but people who smoke have four times the risk of developing macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the United States. These are specific medication conditions, but smoking can affect your eyes in many ways.

Your Mouth

The effects of smoking on your mouth go beyond bad breath. Oral cancer is six times more common in people who smoke. Smoking also leads to gum disease, and gum disease has now been found to be an important risk factor for pancreatic cancer. Even when these serious diseases don't occur, the financial impact of tooth and gum disease can be substantial.

Your Neck and Throat

Smoking affects the head and neck in many ways, from causing cancer to disrupting the thyroid gland, a gland some people call the "thermostat of the body."

Your Chest

Your lungs are certainly at risk if you smoke. Many of these conditions are ominous, but smoking may also increase the risk of developing chest colds and other nuisance conditions.

Your Heart

There is good public awareness that smoking causes heart disease, but smoking also raises the risk factors that lead to heart disease.

Your Abdomen

Smoking causes pancreatic cancer and abdominal aortic aneurysms, as well as heartburn and ulcers (which can be dangerous).

Your Reproductive System: Men

We know that one smoking-related condition is of very great concern to men - erectile dysfunction. The prime-time TV commercials we watch tell us so. But the effects of smoking on the male genitourinary and reproductive systems may go beyond erectile dysfunction and impotence.

Your Reproductive System: Women

From early menopause to infertility, smoking takes its toll on a woman’s reproductive health.

Smoking and Pregnancy

From preterm labor to stillbirths, from placenta damage to colic, smoking during pregnancy is downright hazardous. Don't smoke if you're pregnant; studies suggest that it’s easier for a woman to kick the habit if her partner does so as well.​

Your Back, Neck, and Extremities

You might not think that your leg pain or back pain could have anything to do with smoking, but think again.

Cancer and Smoking

Most people are familiar with the link between lung cancer and smoking, but there are many cancers that are associated with smoking. These include:

Symptoms of Diseases

Not only can smoking lead to many illnesses, it can make the experience of the symptoms associated with those conditions worse.

Your Mental Health

There isn’t a lot of research on the effects of smoking on mental health – with the exception that smoking is addictive. But new studies suggest that smoking may cause depression in teens, a big concern considering that suicide is a significant risk in this age group. For adults, smoking may increase the risk of divorce; and anyone who has been through a divorce understands the anxiety and stress that divorce can cause.

Risks for Your Loved Ones

Smoking not only increases your own health risks, but that of people nearby. Secondhand smoke is thought to result in 7,300 lung cancer deaths each year, but secondhand smoke can lead to heart disease, sudden infant death syndrome, and much more. The CDC estimates that 2.5 million people have died as a result of secondhand smoke exposure since 1964.

A Word From Verywell

Listing the diseases caused by cigarette smoke can feel like a blame game, but it's important that we develop compassion for people who smoke. People don't smoke because they are unaware of the risks. Nicotine is extremely addictive, and many people begin to use tobacco during the young magical years. If you smoke, seek out people who can be kind as you look into quitting. And if you are a non-smoker, remember that we have all done things we wish we hadn't. We can't change the past. But we can begin to day by offering kindness and compassion in helping people find the support and the resources they need to quit.

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