Combat 5 Lung Diseases That Take Your Breath Away
Cigarette smoke is bad for your health.
Every puff contains chemical substances including pesticides, tar, heavy metals, and of course, nicotine. Even secondhand smoke is linked to medical conditions that affect the body—especially the respiratory system.
Smoking inflames airways, damages healthy tissue, and weakens the body’s immune system. Every cigarette has a cumulative effect on your body throughout your life.
Roman Krol, MD, a Virtua pulmonologist and director of the lung screening program, explains 5 respiratory conditions caused by smoking—and why quitting today, even if you've smoked for years, can help save your health and life.
Bronchitis is the inflammation of the bronchial tubes—the airways that connect your lungs. When they are inflamed or infected, less air flows to and from the lungs. This makes you cough up heavy mucus or phlegm; this is often called “smoker’s cough.”
Your bronchial tubes connect to your lungs' alveoli (air sacs) where oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide. These air sacs are stretchy so they can inflate and deflate with each breath. With emphysema, the air sacs weaken, the elasticity is destroyed and less gas is exchanged. This leads to shortness of breath and low oxygen levels.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
COPD is a progressive lung disease that makes it hard to breathe and gets worse over time. Most people who have COPD have both chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Symptoms include reduced lung function, chronic coughing, and shortness of breath. It is a major cause of disability today, and the third-leading cause of death in the United States.
Pneumonia is an infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs. The air sacs may fill with fluid or pus, causing cough, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing. A variety of organisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, can cause pneumonia. While many conditions can lead to pneumonia, smokers are more susceptible and face higher mortality rates than nonsmokers.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. It claims more lives each year than colon, prostate, ovarian, and breast cancers combined. Smoking causes structural lung damage, but also affects tissue at the molecular level, increasing the likelihood of mutations that promote cancer cells.
The differences between smokers and nonsmokers are stark, with smokers 10 to 30 times more likely to develop lung cancer.
The key to improving your respiratory health is to quit smoking. Smokers who quit even after a respiratory disease diagnosis have a higher survival rate compared to those who keep smoking.
To find support, call 1-888-VIRTUA-3 or check out the Virtua Smoking Cessation Education and Support Group.
Updated July 5, 2016