Smoking is one of the biggest threats to normal, healthy lungs. It has the power to change the function and structure of your lungs, resulting in difficulty of breathing and increasing the risk of various health conditions.

If you are familiar with cigarette ads, you have probably seen graphics and illustrations that compare smokers’ lungs and healthy ones. These are warnings for a reason—smoking causes severe damage to your lungs, which can lead to more serious illnesses.

Do you want to learn how to differentiate them and understand the signs of lung problems? Keep on reading to find out.

The Basic Appearance of Smokers’ Lungs

Because of smoking, there can be physical changes in a person’s lungs. If you get a CAT scan or an X-ray, you will notice some changes, including the following:

  • Lung color changes from pink to black or gray
  • Compared to the average size, the lungs look hyperinflated
  • Lungs also come with patches of inflammation
  • From a dome-shaped diaphragm, there will be diaphragm muscle loss

Smoker’s Lungs at the Cellular Level

Aside from the noticeable changes, there are also cellular changes in a smoker’s lungs. When looked at under the microscope, there are tobacco-related injuries that can be identified. 

In particular, here’s how tobacco smoke affects the different parts of the respiratory tract.

1. Cilia

The cilia are the hair-like appendages you can see lining the bronchi and bronchioles. Cilia help the lungs by catching foreign material that gets through the airways. They bring back the foreign materials by propelling them in a wave-like motion to the throat. From the throat, you can swallow the material, and they will be destroyed by stomach acid.

Unfortunately, when smoke damages the cilia, they become paralyzed, and they will not be able to perform their function. As a result, toxins and infectious organisms can be left in the lungs, which will damage the rest of the body. This can lead to diseases, and in worse cases, cancer.

2. Mucus

Inflammatory cells in the airways secrete mucus whenever the body inhales the harmful chemicals included in smoke. Because of the abundance of mucus, the body fails to inhale oxygen-rich air, which is essential for its many vital processes. Additionally, mucus can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and lead to disease.

3. Alveoli

The alveoli are the smallest airways in the lungs, and they are the final destination of oxygen after you breathe in. These alveoli are abundant in collagen and elastin, giving them the ability to expand and deflate.

When you inhale cigarette smoke, the toxins you breathe in damage the alveoli and rupture their thin walls. Aside from that, the chemicals ruin their ability to expand and contract.

4. Capillaries

Capillaries, or small blood vessels, also get damaged as much as lung tissue. Smoking can harm the blood vessels by scarring and thickening them, preventing oxygen from passing through and combining with hemoglobin in the blood.

Final Thoughts

Smoking brings considerable damage to the body, particularly to the lungs. If you are too late in quitting the habit, you can suffer from very harmful diseases, especially in the long run.

If you are looking into improving your lungs’ condition, check out the Lung Health Program by Garden State Medical Group. Our primary care doctors and cardiopulmonary physicians can help you focus on prevention, management, and education. Contact us today to discuss this program further.

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