Can Smoking Cessation Reverse COPD?

Can Smoking Cessation Reverse COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of inflammatory lung diseases that cause progressive airway damage, ongoing airflow blockage, worsening breathing problems, reduced quality of life, and increased risk of mortality for about 16 million people in the United States. In up to 90% of these cases, smoking is to blame. 

Given that smoking is the primary cause of COPD — and that quitting smoking is the most important first step anyone can take to slow COPD progression and ease its symptoms — it’s only natural to wonder: Can smoking cessation help reverse COPD altogether? 

At Fivestar Pulmonary Associates in Allen, McKinney, and Plano, Texas, our seasoned team of board-certified pulmonologists knows that the right treatment approach can make a world of difference when it comes to managing COPD and protecting your long-term health. 

Here, Dr. Anthony NeborDr. Asif Najmuddin, and Dr. Deepthi Gandhiraj take a closer look at the positive — though not curative — effects smoking cessation can have on COPD outcomes. 

Basic facts about COPD 

COPD is the medical term for a group of inflammatory and progressive lung diseases that cause less air to flow through your airways, making it hard to breathe. Early symptoms may include:

Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are the two most common lung diseases that contribute to the development of COPD. In most cases, a COPD diagnosis means having at least one of these lung-damaging diseases, and frequently having symptoms of both. 

Chronic bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis aggravates and inflames the bronchial tubes that carry air into your lungs. This ongoing irritation and swelling can damage the hair-like structures (cilia) in the tubes that help clear mucus out of your airways. 


Emphysema damages or destroys the air sacs (alveoli) in your lungs. Alveoli play a critical role in transferring oxygen from your lungs to your blood and transporting carbon dioxide waste back out. If alveoli aren’t healthy and fully functional, neither are your lungs. 

COPD is progressive and irreversible 

COPD is both progressive and irreversible. This means that without proper management, it will worsen over time; it also means that the damage it inflicts on your lungs can’t be reversed or undone. This damage occurs in one or more of the following ways:

Smoking isn’t just the primary cause of COPD; it’s also the main cause of accelerated COPD progression and the top risk factor for COPD-related mortality: People who smoke are at least 12 times more likely to die from COPD than those who don’t smoke.

Why does this matter? For two reasons: Quitting smoking is the most important step you can take to slow or halt COPD progression and protect your health, and statistics show that nearly two in five people (39%) with COPD continue smoking cigarettes, despite the consequences. 

Benefits of smoking cessation 

Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 harmful chemical compounds, 200 of which are very toxic. Heavy smoking or smoking for a long duration can be so damaging to your lungs that people who do successfully quit smoking still carry a much higher-than-average risk of developing COPD decades later. 

This may be explained by the fact that lung function decline in ex-smokers is faster than the normal, age-related lung function decline experienced by those who’ve never smoked. But it’s just as important to recognize that ex-smokers experience a slower decline in lung function compared to current smokers. 

While quitting smoking is always the right health decision, doing so can’t reverse the damage already done by COPD. What it can do is help slow — and sometimes, stop — its progression to give you a better chance at improved symptom control and a more normal quality of life. 

You can’t reverse COPD, but smoking cessation and a comprehensive treatment plan can help you effectively manage the disease and breathe easier. To find out how Fivestar Pulmonary Associates can help you accomplish all the above, call or click online to schedule a visit at your nearest office today.

Complete this COPD Questionaire to see if you should seek medical treatment.

You Might Also Enjoy...

When to Seek Expert Care for Your Cough 

When to Seek Expert Care for Your Cough 

Coughing is a natural, spontaneous reflex to clear irritants from your throat and airway. It’s also one of the most common signs of respiratory illness, environmental allergies, asthma, and lung disease. Here’s when a cough warrants expert care. 
How Sleep Apnea Affects Your Energy and Mood

How Sleep Apnea Affects Your Energy and Mood

Excessive daytime fatigue and uncharacteristic irritability are common early warning signs of sleep-disordered breathing, otherwise known as sleep apnea. Here’s how sleep apnea affects your energy and mood and what you can do about it.
How to Lower Your Risk for Asthma Complications

How to Lower Your Risk for Asthma Complications

Every year in the United States, nearly two million people visit the emergency room for severe asthma symptoms. Luckily, preventing asthma attacks can reduce your risk of asthma-related complications. Here’s what that means.

5 Tools for Quitting Smoking for Good

Quitting smoking can be challenging, but with the right mindset, tools, and support, we’re confident you can kick the habit for good. Learn more about smoking cessation tools that can enhance your efforts and help you be successful.
When Is Shortness of Breath Serious?

When Is Shortness of Breath Serious?

Dyspnea, or shortness of breath, can be a sign of many different health problems, including serious heart and lung conditions. Here’s when this uncomfortable, tight-chested sensation of “air hunger” is cause for concern. 
5 Symptoms of Pleural Effusion

5 Symptoms of Pleural Effusion

Pleural effusion — sometimes referred to as “water on the lungs”— is the abnormal buildup of excess fluid in the space between your lungs and chest cavity. Read on to learn more about the signs and symptoms of this common condition.