Diabetes & smoking

If you have diabetes and smoke, you are increasing your risk of developing health complications, such as heart disease, vision problems and foot infections.

The best thing you can do is to quit smoking and keep your diabetes well controlled. Quitting helps lower your health risks and can improve your energy levels and quality of life.

Your heart

If you have diabetes, smoking makes you more likely to have a heart attack and 3 times more likely to die of heart disease. Even people under 40 years old with diabetes have a high risk of heart attack when they smoke.

This is because:

  • Smokers have more fat deposits on the walls of their blood vessels and these can become blocked, leading to heart attack or stroke.
  • When you smoke, your heart rate increases and oxygen in the blood is reduced, so your heart has to work harder.

Your circulation

Smoking slows down circulation in the smaller blood vessels which supply your hands and feet.

Smoking is related to:

  • foot ulcers
  • foot infections
  • blood vessel disease in the legs
  • foot and leg amputations.

Your eyes

Diabetes can cause a condition where the tiny blood vessels in the eyes become blocked, and smoking can cause even more eye problems, leading to blindness.

Your kidneys

Smoking increases your risk of kidney disease.

Your sex life

Men with diabetes who smoke are more likely to have erection problems, because smoking slows down the blood supply to the penis. Nerve damage may also reduce sensation.

Your joints

Movement and flexibility in the joints may be affected by smoking when you have diabetes.

Your nerves

Smoking will increase the risk of nerve damage in all parts of your body, leading to numbness and pain.

Your teeth

If you smoke you have a higher chance of getting gum disease and losing your teeth.

Your blood glucose level

Smoking raises your blood glucose level, making it harder to control your diabetes. Quitting smoking helps get your blood glucose level down. It can come down to the same level as people who have never smoked.

Your choice to quit

Quitting smoking improves the quality of your life, increases your energy and your level of wellbeing.

Further information

View the Quit Smoking section.

Credits: Original material provided by the Quit Group, June 2004. Reviewed By: Health Navigator Team