Is It Still Possible to Get COPD or Emphysema Years After I Quit Smoking?

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The majority of patients with COPD and emphysema actually present many years after they quit smoking. One common misconception patients have is that they can only get COPD or emphysema while they are smoking. The true problem is that smoking causes years of chronic inflammation that often goes up silently over time.

Unfortunately, a lot of these inflammation continues to persist after patients stop smoking, and it's only after this airway limitation crosses a critical threshold that patients start to feel symptoms. At that point they are usually found to have COPD or Emphysema. The two dominant symptoms from COPD are either chronic bronchitis or shortness of breathe.

Chronic bronchitis we define as chronic cough with present or normal daily basis for three months in two consecutive years. Patients also report that they frequently get episodes of bronchitis or they have a cough productive of sputum that happens at least two to three times a year.

This can be a manifestation of COPD. The other main symptom is shortness of breath, patients will first start to note that they have a limitation in their exercise tolerance. What that means is they don't feel short of breath at rest, but once they start walking around they notice that they get more winded than people of a similar age.