Do Lungs Recover from Smoking?

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The constant barrage of irritants experienced by the lungs of those who smoke make the organs inflamed, irritated, open to infection and damage. Quitting smoking certainly stops the insult to these essential organs, but do lungs recover from smoking completely?

The answer to this question is, “it depends.” The amount of cigarettes smoked and the length of time smoked changes this answer dramatically. While the first cigarette causes damage, the lung is able to clean up this damage fairly quickly, as long as there is no other assault, like another cigarette, on the lungs tissues while they heal. Here is quick timeline of when to expect your lungs to return to your version of “normal:”

72 Hours

Lungs begin the healing process.

2 to 12 Weeks

Lung capacity improves.

1 Year

Cilia, the tiny hair like structures on the inside of the lungs designed to move mucous out, begin to re-grow.

5 Years

All the pre-cancerous cells destroyed by cigarette smoke are mostly replaced with healthy cells. Your risk of lung cancer begins to fall.

10 Years

The risk of lung cancer and heart disease falls to nearly pre-smoking status.

Keep in mind those with severe lung disease or those who were heavy lifetime smokers most likely will not see improvement as quickly, but they should see some improvement. Those who smoked for a short time may see improvement more rapidly. Each person’s health picture is dramatically different so be sure to consult your doctor about any symptoms you are having, and be sure to keep him informed of your quit plan status throughout your program.


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