New health findings are typically never positive for those individuals who smoke. News from a recent study may have smokers taking extra-long looks in the mirror. Researchers have uncovered evidence that smokers who develop a lot of wrinkles on their face may have a severe underlying respiratory problem that they didn’t know about.
A group of U.K. investigators have found that middle-aged smokers are five times more likely to have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) if they are heavily wrinkled, as opposed to being smooth-skinned. The researchers believe that this new connection will help shed some light on the more intricate effects that smoking has on the body.
Both COPD and wrinkles may be linked to the same mechanism — and the latter could be a stark illustration of the body’s susceptibility to the lung disease. In other words, those wrinkles may be a big warning sign that you have COPD.
COPD is — other than cancer — the worst thing that can happen to your lungs. A wheezing cough is the least of your worries, as it will progress to a shortness of breath that will plague you with COPD during even the slightest exertion. This could mean raising a fork to your mouth and chewing food, or slipping on a shirt. The condition is bronchitis mixed with emphysema, which damages both your bronchial tubes and your lung’s delicate air sacs.
COPD can’t easily be treated. Other symptoms include chronic breathing difficulties, fatigue, depression, memory loss and confusion, and restless sleep. It can even cause your lungs to collapse.
Two out of 10 smokers will get COPD. Tobacco smoke accounts for 90% of all cases. Smoking causes inflamed lungs and causes bodily reactions whereby an enzyme starts breaking down important elastic fibers in lung tissue.
The new study has found that if a smoker starts getting wrinkles prematurely, it could be a sign that COPD is developing. That person should be screened for the lung disease, which could mean that earlier treatment will be necessary.
The researchers looked into this idea because it’s known that smokers experience both premature aging of the skin and of the lungs. In the study, the 17% of smokers who had considerable wrinkling had significantly worse lung strength and function.
Many experts are chiming in on this study, and many agree that that the wrinkle/COPD link could be for real. More studies are sure to happen since 14 million Americans have the disease, and by 2020 the World Health Organization says it will become the third leading cause of death in the world.