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Smoking cessation can reverse lung changes in asthma

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

According to new findings, smoking cessation can reverse some of the lung damage that occurs among asthma sufferers from smoking cigarettes. Martine Broekema, Ph.D., the lead author of the study says that stopping smoking can reverse thickness in the airways of asthma patients, leading to less mucous production and inflammation.

Dr. Broekema said, "We found that exposure to cigarette smoke appears to increase the thickness of the epithelium, or lining, of the airways in the lung. This may be the underlying cause of the fact that smoking asthma patients experience more asthma symptoms, such as shortness of breath and phlegm production, compared to non-smoking asthma patients.”

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Studying patients with asthma showed that years and amount of smoking had no bearing on lung changes in asthma patients who stopped smoking. "To our surprise, these two sub-groups of ex-smokers showed no difference in any outcome measure. These sub-analyses indicate that the amount of smoke exposure in the past does not influence our outcome measures," said Dr. Broekema. "This study shows again how important smoking cessation is for pulmonary health, and this appears to be especially true for asthmatic patients. The good news is that quitting appears to have a measurable benefit in these individuals. “

Study participants were given questionnaires about smoking related symptoms, and then underwent bronchial biopsies. The scientist divided former smokes into two groups - those with 3.4 pack-year exposure and those with more than 3.4 pack-years, finding that both groups diagnosed with asthma equally benefited from smoking cessation.

Current smokers with asthma were found to have more mucous production overall, and more cells that produce mucous. The authors say …”our data suggest that smoking cessation can reverse the thickening of the lining of the airways”. Asthma patients who stop smoking, regardless of how many years or how many cigarettes, can benefit by smoking cessation. Smoking cessation can reverse thickening of lung tissue, and inflammatory lung change in patients with asthma.

American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine Vol 180. pp. 1170-1178, (2009)