Diagnosed with emphysema aged 37 - British Lung Foun...

British Lung Foundation
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Diagnosed with emphysema aged 37


Hello, I'm 37 and have just been told I have emphysema. They've also noticed a shadow at the bottom of my left lung which is going to be investigated, although I've been told it's not like sinister. I smoked from the age of 16 - 24 years, then on and off for the next 3 years. I quit at 27, and have stopped exactly 10 years this week. I feel quite shocked really. When I asked my GP what this means, he said, well it's irreversible. I am very active and teach physical classes 6 days per week. If I hadn't had a nasty chest infection, and was not sent for a chest x-ray, I think this would have gone unnoticed. I felt fine until chest infection 4 weeks ago. The only thing that makes me think, is that I have felt out of breath reading bedtime stories to my children, struggling to finish my sentences sometimes, again I've thought this unusual because I talk to classes all day long whilst moving above music, and do not struggle. Apologies for the rant. I feel frightened of what this means for the future. I have 3 children including a 1 year old. I am self employed and main earner for our family. Feeling worried. Thank you for listening/reading.

19 Replies

Sorry to read about your issues IS no good blaming your self INFECTION's can do incapacitate you ITs good your active and am sure kids will keep you fit for long time to come.

Am not 100% but if that was my xray findings I would think the talking about Interstitial lung disease as that effects bottom of the lung AM not sure really as ild is board term and guess that's why doctors are getting to bottom of things for you

Hi Topsy,

COPD usually occurs in smokers who have smoked "ten pack years" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pack-year) so, based on your smoking history it is possible.

As for the future, key issues:

1. stop smoking (which you did 10 years ago so no issue)

2. Eat healthy (variety and reduced quantities - overweight makes things worse)

3. Exercise (frequent, slightly breathless)

4. Arrange a PR (Pulmonary Rehabilitation) course through your GP - knowledge is everything

5. Plan for old age and retirement - COPD gets worse when we allow it - follow the above, be aware of infections (PR will explain how) and enjoy life with COPD.

Sure, breathing will always be a bit harder but you are in a great position to control the effects.

Don't worry, enjoy life and family and talk to a healthcare professional (often GP's have limited knowledge)

Best wishes

in reply to y_not

Thanks for the reference to pack years, y_not . I smoked about 7 pack years, but had exposure to my husband's heavier smoking for many more, plus cooking on solid fuel stoves and using coal fires for many years.

in reply to y_not

Thank you y_not, really good advice.

Hi Topsy, sorry to hear of your concerns I'm sure your GP will get to the bottom of things.

I have COPD but I smoked for a lot longer than you I have been a non smoker now for 17 years but the damage was already done and although it irreversible you seem to be doing every thing right by stopping smoking and keeping active. I to had a shadow on the bottom of my left lung it turned out to be pneumonia if this is what you have don't worry it can be dealt with.

You have come to the right place for support this is a brilliant forum and a lot of advice is given, I also think you should ask your GP about pulmonary rehab I learnt a lot when I attended my classes you realise it's not a death sentence and you meet other people in the same situation.

I wish you luck and hope you are soon feeling better, stay positive because worry can make it worse.

Love Sue


I am sorry to hear you have emphysema, I am 37 also and was told six months I have it also mild but have it, I'm still the same scared and worried about the future.

Speak to your doctors and they will help, I haven't been told anything the doctor I saw told me I have it and that was that so hopefully you have better luck.

Keep is posted

HiddenThis reply has been deleted
in reply to Hidden

As to how quickly it will get worse I was diagnosed five years ago with lung capacity of 53%, this year it was 54% ... okay, it doesn't get better, the "improvement" was probably a bad day in the past and a good day this year but you can slow it by how you live!

Take care

in reply to y_not

That's also comforting to hear. Thank you again to all who have given time to reply.


Good morning Topsy3 and welcome. I can't add anything to y_not's excellent reply, except to say that you are very young to have COPD, even though you smoked.

There is an inherited condition called Alpha 1 Antitrypsin Deficiency which can lead to this. Factors like smoke which damage the lungs do so much more quickly in those with A1A deficiency.

About one sixth of the population have it. There are several centres around the country and research is going on. If your GP can't have the test done (most can't) get them to refer you to your nearest centre. Look on the internet and go to the GP knowing where it is. If you have A1A the centre will be involved in developing treatments which prevent your COPD from progressing faster because of it. Your children will also need testing so that you can take steps to prevent their lungs from exposure to damage.

If you are not A1A deficient then you will have lots of advice from the good folks on here on how to live well with your condition.

Thank you for all your replies. It's really helpful, and reassuring too. Got myself really worrying in the middle of the night. Pleased that I've found this site x


Hi there are no guarantees with lung disease but if you are mild now and look after yourselves there is every chance it will not progress very much. The chances are good that you will never reach the more severe stages. But even if you did it wouldn't be for many years yet and there are many on here at this level and worse who still have a good quality of life.

Don't despair, whilst it is a progressive and chronic condition, learn how to manage it then get on with the rest of your lives. You all have a lot of good living to do yet. Remember these days most people die with copd rather than from it.

I hope this has managed you reassure those who need it a bit. xx

What a shock for you, but although irreversible it needn't get worse.

I didn't think that they could diagnose emphysema from a chest X-ray? I though you had to have a ct scan.

I wish you all the best. This site is a great support network.

Nothing to worry about, I have got emphysema and I have never smoked. All it is ageing of the lungs. When I first got diagnosed my lung age was 79. I have now got it down to 69. I am in my forties. Mine was caused by living in Thamesmead, due to air pollution. Also had whooping cough as a baby. Make sure u are getting vitamin A and D, clear your lungs every morning to advoid infections. And remove cows milk.

Thank you MidnightCaller, interesting about the cows milk too.

I was diagnosed mild 5 years ago dident even no I had anything always had asthma from 21 am now very young 60 always trained karate weights etc the time they tell you you have something like copd your mind goes into negative phase thinking am I going to die very quickly your mind is your future think positive I did I feel like I can fight the world am stil working as tree surgeon and that's a demanding job I stil go gym lift heavy weights work out on bag copd sounds like a death sentence but its not b leive me your mind is the future read the secret the book you can change everything if you put your mind to it

Hi interstishal means unknown sorse/reason so you have empasemia but they dont know why. Ask to be tested for alpha 1 antytripsin deficancy as this is often the cause of early onset emphasemia. It is hereditary. But with good treatment and a healthy life style (sounds like you alredy do) you will live to make old bones. Do try pulmanery rehab i think you would finde the exercises easy compared to what you do for a living but the information that comes with it is invaluble. Try not to worry about the shadow at the bottom of your lung it wont fix it and they are moast likely to be an infection or resadue from the infection you have just had. Good luck dont be afraid to ask questions of us or your doctors ☺

in reply to corriena

Thank you Corriena

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