Do lungs heal themselves?

Answer

Parts of the lungs are capable of healing when one quits smoking, but some damage is irreversible, according to HowStuffWorks. This leaves current and ex-smokers with an elevated risk of developing health issues.

HowStuffWorks explains that tiny hairs in the lungs called cilia help sweep dirt and pathogens out of the lungs. The cilia are paralyzed and destroyed by the components in cigarette smoke, thereby inhibiting the lungs' ability to cleanse themselves. Once a person stops smoking, the cilia begin to regenerate, but 10 to 15 years may elapse before the cilia return to their full functionality.

Cigarette smoke permanently damages the alveoli, or air sacs, in the lungs, HowStuffWorks says, making heavy smokers and long-term smokers susceptible to developing emphysema or chronic bronchitis. Some of the inflammation that these conditions cause is reversible if the person stops smoking, but the scarring of the lungs caused by cigarette smoke is permanent.

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