Why do I now have emphysema 10+ years after I gave up smoking?

Hi everyone, I have just turned 43 and was diagnosed yesterday with emphysema, I am awaiting further scans to determine what stage. As a child growing up in South Africa I was prone to bronchitis, I used to get bronchitis at least twice a year, every year. My dad smoked around the kids so obviously this didn't help. I was very fit and sporty, a national level soccer and water polo player. I was at University aged 20 and I had to have an ankle reconstruction from an old sporting injury. I took up smoking out of boredom sitting in a plaster cast for 8 weeks. I smoked mild cigarettes for about a year, I gave up for a few months, my mother died in a car accident in 1995 and I started smoking again. I wasn't a heavy smoker except when alcohol was involved. I continued until 1999 when I got married and I gave up again. After having given up for a year, we immigrated to the Gold Coast, Australia in 2000, but I started smoking again. I finally quit in 2006. In the 17 years I have lived in Australia, I have not had bronchitis once, whether this is due to climate or the fact that I have my flu shot every year, is debatable, but I have always lived by the sea. I have been 100% smoke free for over 10 years. Last year I was experiencing shortness of breath simply by carrying my 8 year old upstairs to bed. At the time and as recently as 2 weeks ago, I was running 5km once a week, swimming 3kms twice a week, cycling twice a week more than 100kms in total and gyming 3 times a week. I wonder why it took so long after I stopped smoking for this disease to emerge, did I suddenly increase my lung capacity again and this caused an acceleration of the condition? I consider myself very fit and healthy and had previously been told that people who give up smoking at 30, having smoked for 10 years, will return completely to normal after giving up for 10 years. I don't understand why this condition has come to the fore so much later? They say there are 3 types of emphysema, the one that is from years of smoking which damages the tops of the lungs, the genetic non smoker form which affects the bottom of the lungs (is very rare) and the repeated lung infection one which affects the centre of the lungs. It would appear mine is the lung infection one, presumably from years of contracting bronchitis....

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10 Replies

  • I was diagnosed with copd at the age of 42 I had smoked for several years but like kept myself fit.

    At school I did all sports plus after school sports and it was this that helped after being diagnosed.

    I stopped smoking as soon as I was diagnosed but I think the damage had been done by then and i then put on weight that didn't help due to lower back problems I can't do land sports so I go swimming and the more you do the healthier your lungs will be.

    We are always hear to support take care

  • Hello. Our lungs degenerate over time so it is not really surprising that the damage shows later. Most people are diagnosed a long time after symptoms appear just because they get worse so slowly. The important thing though is that you did stop. COPD in the early stages can be managed quite well and you can slow down any further loss of lung capacity by avoiding smoke, traffic fumes, etc., exercising and following your doctor's advice. This is a great place to find out more. Welcome again to the forum :)

  • Welcome to the forum.

  • Hi from what I have seen on here the majority of people develop lung problems after they have given up smoking. As has been said the damage has already been done which it why it can emerge years, even decades afterwards. x

  • Thanks for this, liver, heart and kidneys are all clear in the bloods.

  • Welcome what a life you have had. Like you I was fit so I was devastated to learn I had cold. But I keep myself fit and eat healthy so lifes not badxxx Bernadette 😊

  • Welcome! I think the initial shock of finding out you have emphysema is the hardest part. You sound like you are incredibly fit so I would concentrate on keeping that up.When you get your statistics let us know. There are many very knowledgeable,helpful, kind people on this site to help you through this.

  • You have had some good replies Spillane so l just want to say welcome to you. Xxxx

  • Hi, unfortunately "why" is the million dollar question a lot of us ask. In my view: it is just bad luck! In my personal case, I took a risk, I smoked and was unlucky to be one of the smokers who developed COPD.

    I know it is hard, but try not to dwell too much on the Whys as you can end up beating yourself up over it.

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