Emphysema is a disease of the lung tissue where the elastic nature of the lungs gets destroyed by the irritating effects of cigarette smoke. This causes the lungs to lose the ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide in the normal way and makes it harder for you to breath. Emphysema is often accompanied by chronic bronchitis which together is called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (or COPD for short).
Lung cancer is also a complication of smoking, but is a different disease entirely. Lung cancer occurs when one of the lung cells decides to begin growing and dividing out of control. It does this because of damage done to its DNA by the cigarette smoke.
Both lung cancer and emphysema can be deadly and are often irreversible and difficult to treat. I suggest that you schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. He or she can review some of the more common health issues that arise because of smoking. In addition, you can get information and help to quit smoking. Quitting smoking is the single most important thing you can do to improve your health. It won’t be easy, but it is something you can accomplish if you decide you are going to do it.
Photo by Jason Scherer, an old school picture of him riding his snowmobile in the Tahoe Mountains.