One of the most serious risks to lung health is smoking. It alters the shape and structure of the lungs, making breathing impossible and raising the risk of a variety of medical conditions. The lungs are a part of the respiratory system that draws in oxygen from the air and extract carbon dioxide. While many causes, such as genetic disorders, infections, and environmental conditions, can affect lung function, smoking is one of the most harmful. The physiological and anatomical differences between a smoker’s lungs and healthy lungs are discussed in this article. We also give recommendations on how to stop smoking and improve lung health.
Smoker’s Lungs vs. Healthy Lungs
Smoking cigarettes will alter the physical appearance of the lungs. Any of the changes can be identified by screening procedures such as a CAT scan and a chest X-ray. The table below lists some of the more common physical differences.
|Healthy Lungs||Smoker’s Lungs|
|Pink||Gray or Black|
|No inflammation||Patches of inflammation|
|Dome-shaped diaphragm||Diaphragm muscle loss|
Smoking not only induces physical changes, but it also alters lung function. Individuals vary in the amount of time it takes for the changes to manifest. Several problems arise as a result of the changes, interfering with regular breathing. In addition, the following differences exist between a smoker’s lungs and good lungs:
- Increased mucus production
- Smoking may cause the lungs to produce more mucus.
This increased mucus development will occur for a number of causes, the most common of which is that smoking cigarettes destroys the epithelial cells that line the airway. Because of the damage, inflammatory cells develop, which stimulates goblet cell production, resulting in increased mucus.
Many smokers’ lungs contain moderate-to-large quantities of dense mucus, which ranges in consistency and quantity.
Coughing is normal in smokers, and some also develop a chronic cough. The cilia in smokers’ lungs are often damaged. Cilia are airway hairs that help keep dust and other irritants out of the lungs. Typically, smoking can damage the cilia by paralyzing or damaging them, allowing irritants to enter the airways. This could result in a chronic cough.
Low oxygen levels
Smoking use can cause thickening and scarring of the capillary walls of the lungs. Capillaries are tiny blood vessels that cause oxygen to flow through and then transfer to the body’s tissues. Capillary damage can hinder proper gaseous exchange, resulting in low oxygen levels.
A smoker’s lungs are usually more inflamed than healthy lungs. Cigarette chemicals can cause tissue damage in the lungs, resulting in inflammation. Lung inflammation constricts the airways, resulting in chest tightness and wheezing.
Shortness of Breathe
The combination of the changes caused by smoking in the lungs can result in shortness of breath. Breathing becomes painful as a result of some of these changes, including damage to the cells that line the airways, destroyed cilia, and elevated mucus. As a consequence, even light physical exertion will cause shortness of breath.
Why Smoking Changes the Lungs?
Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including:
Some of the chemicals mentioned above are carcinogens, which means they have the ability to cause cancer in humans. Furthermore, the chemicals can cause scarring or inflammation in the lungs, as well as damage to cells and blood vessels. Smoking can cause respiratory problems such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis by modifying the lungs over time. Aside from smoking, excessive exposure to secondhand smoke will alter the lungs and lead to some respiratory conditions.
Tips for quitting smoking
One of the easiest ways to reduce the chances of lung damage is to never smoke. People who still smoke should choose from a range of choices to assist them in breaking the habit. Those wishing to quit smoking should take the following suggestions:
Learn about different quitting methods
There are many methods for quitting smoking, although no one approach is effective for everyone. Certain smoking cessation methods have more studies than others, but even less-proven approaches work with some people.
Smoking cessation options include:
- nicotine replacement, which is available in the form of patches, gums, and sprays
- medication, such as bupropion (Zyban) or Chantix
Consider more than one method
There is no rule specifying that a person must use only one method to help them quit smoking. A combination of strategies is often the most efficient. Using nicotine replacement therapy in conjunction with treatment, for example, can improve the likelihood of success for some people.
Few individuals will find it beneficial to inform family and friends of their decision to stop smoking, since these loved ones will be willing to provide support. Alternatively, the American Lung Association and smokefree.gov have online and in-person resources.
Stick with it
When deciding to quit smoking, it is not unusual to encounter setbacks. Giving in to addiction and smoking a cigarette is not the same as failing. Instead, a person should use the experience to benefit from and attempt and find additional or better ways to improve their odds of being smoke-free in the future.
Tips for Healthy Lungs
Smoking cessation is one of the most effective ways to keep the lungs safe. People should, however, take other measures to protect their lungs and ensure good lung health. There are few examples:
- Exercising regularly: Exercise increases the strength with which the body absorbs oxygen. It can also reduce the risk of some diseases that may have an effect on lung health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that all adults workout for at least 150 minutes a week.
- Protecting against infection: Infections can damage the lungs in some situations. People may reduce their chance of lung infection by constantly washing their hands, avoiding people who are ill, and having an annual flu vaccine if their doctor suggests it.
- Reducing indoor pollutants: Various indoor air pollutants can irritate the lungs, contribute to lung disease, and aggravate existing respiratory conditions. Keeping your house clean of chemicals, asbestos, and secondhand smoke will help protect your lungs.
Wrapping It Up
In some ways, smokers’ lungs vary from healthy lungs. Smoking not only affects the shape of the lungs, but it may also induce physical modifications, such as damage to the cells that line the airways, the cilia, and the capillaries in the lungs.
Symptoms of structural injury can include chronic coughing, excess mucus, and shortness of breath. The only way to avoid this is to avoid or eliminate smoking. There are several methods for quitting smoking, including drugs, nicotine patches, and behavioral therapy.