To have a better understanding on the effects of smoking when it comes to COPD and Emphysema, it is important to know exactly what these conditions are.
- COPD also known as the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is a medical condition that is a combination of other two diseases: emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The term obstructive comes from the fact that when a person exhales, it feels like something is obstructing the air that goes out.
- Emphysema – this is a lung disease that involves difficulty breathing. It is a long-term condition that is representative for the COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
A recent study conducted in the United States has revealed the fact that about 11 million people are diagnosed with COPD, but nearly 24 million may have this condition but are not aware of the situation. The same study has also stated the fact that COPD ranks third among the leading causes of death in the U.S.
Even though there are a few factors that are known to cause these conditions, including dust and exposure to different air pollutants, the most common cause is represented by smoking. Believe it or not, but 90% of all registered cases are caused by this bad habit. In a comparison made between non-smokers and smokers, it has been determined the fact that smokers have six times more chances of developing emphysema than non-smokers.
Unfortunately, it is still unknown how smoking actually manages to have such a great negative impact on the air sac linings that are located in the lungs, as well as why there are heavy smokers that tend not to develop any of these diseases. In fact, about 50% of heavy smokers over the age of 50 get COPD, and the chances increase for those using marijuana, even if not on a regular basis. Interesting enough is the fact that even though smoking cigarettes is as damaging as pipe or cigar smoking, when it comes to developing COPD, things are not as similar, mainly because people smoking cigarettes have higher chances of getting COPD than people smoking cigars, even if they also show some risks.
Just like any other medical disease caused by smoking, the chances of developing COPD increase with the length of time a smoker enjoys this bad habit, and with the amount of tobacco he ingests each day.
Not only direct smoking can lead to COPD, but also secondhand smoking, as it has the same effects on a person’s organism. This being said, it is important to reduce the amount of secondhand smoke you, or your family ingest, and to protect yourself from this type of danger, by taking a series of preventive steps, including:
- Only go to smoke free bars/restaurants
- Avoid staying near smokers
- Always maintain your living environments as clean as possible
Other factors that are known to lead to COPD include genetic susceptibility, age, air pollution and even your workplace being exposed to dust, smoke or fumes.
In case this medical condition is not kept under control, there are a series of complications that may appear, including heart problems (frequent heart attacks), lung cancer, high blood pressure (pulmonary hypertension), depression and even respiratory infections such as pneumonia, the flu and frequent colds.
Although there is no permanent cure, managing to quit smoking actually decreases the rate at which the disease progresses. For those smokers that do not develop emphysema, there are other serious health effects that appear throughout their life, so deciding to quit smoking is the best possible decision.