Pulmonary fibrosis (PF), a condition with no known cure, affects more than 200,000 Americans, according to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. However, a recent foundation survey revealed that over 80% of smokers are unfamiliar with the disease and nearly 9 out of 10 Americans do not know its symptoms.
What is pulmonary fibrosis?
Simply put, PF means scarring in the lungs. It is a disease that causes damage and scarring to lung tissue. Over time, the thickened, stiff scarred tissue can make it hard for oxygen to get into the blood and make it more difficult for the lungs to work properly. Low oxygen levels can lead to shortness of breath, especially when walking and exercising.
PF can also result in a dry cough, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, aching muscles and joints, as well as widening and rounding of the tips of the fingers or toes. Smokers usually know that tobacco usage can lead to diseases such as lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and emphysema, but they are frequently unaware of PF. It is important for a smoker to speak with a doctor if she or he has chronic symptoms similar to those of PF, like a dry, persistent cough.
In fact, PF can be caused by many different factors, including long-term exposure to certain toxins, certain medical conditions, radiation therapy, and some medications. Among the risk factors, it is worth noting that far more smokers and former smokers develop PF than people who have never smoked.
Other health risks of smoking tobacco
Apart from PF, cigarette smoking can do harm to almost every organ in the body, leading to many diseases in smokers. Ten of the worst diseases that smoking can cause include lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, stroke, asthma, ectopic pregnancy in women, premature and low birth-weight babies, diabetes, eye problems including blindness, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration, as well as other types of cancer that may affect the overall body.
Additionally, secondhand smoke can also cause disease and premature death in nonsmoking adults and children. Therefore, quitting smoking will not only lower your risk for smoking-related diseases and extend your life expectancy, but also protect family members, coworkers, friends, and others from the health risks associated with breathing secondhand smoke.
What can you do to quit smoking?
Regardless of your age or how long you have been smoking, it is never too late to stop. Here are some tips on how to be successful.
First, focus on your motivators and build your confidence. Do not get discouraged even if you have failed in previous attempts. Increase your confidence by achieving a series of small goals as you visualize your success. Also, be prepared with other ways besides smoking to manage stress and negative emotions. It is also a good idea to tell friends and family that you are trying to quit. Enlisting their support will help ease the process.
Quitting smoking can be a long journey, but every effort you make will bring you closer to health!