The Toxic Path to Emphysema

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The Toxic Path to EmphysemaStudies on the effects of smoking are never positive. In this same vein, a piece of health news has illustrated how smoking cigarettes leads to emphysema. Sometimes understanding the details helps people quit the habit.

Tobacco smoke creates havoc in the lung cells, activates parts of the immune system that creates inflammation — which leads to life-shortening emphysema. That’s what researchers report about the path of toxic smoke in the lungs. Before, we thought emphysema was a non-specific response to smoking for a long time. But we know for the first time that emphysema is caused by a specific immune response induced by smoke.

The inflammation that drives emphysema could also drive cancer development. To uncover the cause of tobacco- induced emphysema, they studied mice exposed to conditions that closely simulated how humans smoke. These animals developed the lung disease in three to four months, with certain inflammatory cells and genes proving crucial to the process.

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They then took the cells out of the lungs of the mice with disease and transferred into mice that had never been exposed to cigarette smoke. After three months, these mice showed inflammatory signs that they were on the way to developing lung damage and emphysema.

These cells included the gene for “osteopontin,” which promotes initiation of the inflammatory cascade that damages lungs. Mice that lacked this gene were resistant to emphysema. In the end, cigarettes affect your DNA, your genetics, and bring rise to conditions that cause inflammation and, as a result, emphysema.

There are many methods one can use to try to kick the smoking habit. Of the nicotine replacement methods, the patch has been deemed most effective. But it alone will not help you get over the intense urge to smoke.

It takes lifestyle modifications to remove all the things from your life (at least for a little while) that you associate with smoking. It could mean avoiding certain social gatherings or things in the house, and changing daily routines that used to be built around taking a smoke break.

For help quitting smoking, contact your local office of the Lung Association. Also speak to your doctor, who will be able to refer you to the help you might need.

It’s never too late to quit smoking.