It is well known that smoking is dangerous in many different ways. Smoking over a period of time leads to many different health problems. Smoking is particularly damaging to the heart and lungs. Smoking can lead to a number of lung diseases or disorders including COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder), lung cancer, Emphysema, and shortness of breath. But exactly how can smoking destroy your lungs. Let's look at the process.
As a smoker inhales smoke into their lungs it first passes through the esophagus and windpipe. It passes through the upper airways and over the cilia. Cilia are tiny hairs that line the upper airway. They are responsible for protecting the lungs from infection by moving mucus out of the lungs. The continuous passing of smoke over the cilia eventually damages them to the point that they can no longer move. Once the cilia can no longer move then mucus mixed with damaging toxins gets clogged in the lungs. This can increase the smoker's chances of getting lung cancer or COPD.
As smoke continues its journey through the lungs it is divided between the left and right lung and continues to be divided over and over into the smallest passages of the lungs known as the alveoli. The alveoli are the final branching of the respiratory system. The alveoli are the air sacs that transport oxygen into your blood and can be compared to tiny balloons. Over time smoking causes the alveoli to become less elastic. As the alveoli lose their elasticity it makes it more difficult for them to absorb oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the lungs. This is what causes shortness of breath in smokers.
Smoking can also destroy the elastic recoil of your lungs causing the smoker to have difficulty breathing out. This difficulty in breathing out leads to an excess of carbon dioxide in the lungs eventually filling the lungs with carbon dioxide. This destruction of the elastic recoil of the lungs leads to emphysema.
Can the Damage Be Repaired?
We reviewed the 3 main ways of how can smoking destroy your lungs. The good news is that if a smoker can quit smoking before permanent damage is done then the lungs have the ability to repair themselves. But, the smoker must stop before the damage becomes permanent so the sooner the smoker quits the better. It is never too late to quit smoking and the damage it causes to the lungs.