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Quit Smoking, Quickly Improve Asthma

Study Shows Lung Function Better in Asthma Patients After 1 Week Without Cigarettes
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 14, 2006 -- Quitting smoking may have a quick pay off for people with asthmaasthma.

A single smoke-free week may be all it takes to start seeing improvements in asthma patients' lung function, researchers report in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

"In smokers with asthma, improvement in lung function occurs as early as one week after smoking cessationsmoking cessation, with a further improvement up to six weeks," write Rekha Chaudhuri, MD, and colleagues. Chaudhuri works at Scotland's University of Glasgow.

"Active cigarette smoking is known to worsen the severity of asthma," the researchers point out. They studied 20 asthma patients (average age: mid- to late 40s) who were smokers.

The patients had smoked for at least 28 years and currently smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day, on average. For the study, half agreed to quit smokingquit smoking for at least six weeks. The others kept on smoking.

Before and after the experiment, patients took lung function tests.

In one of those tests, the patients forcibly exhaled as much air as possible in one second's time. When the study started, the patients' scores on that test were lower than what would be expected for normal, healthy lungs.

After one week of not smoking, scores on that same lung function test -- called FEV1 -- began to improve. The gains continued for six weeks for the new nonsmokers.

The quit-smoking group also showed a drop in neutrophils -- a type of white blood cell -- in the thick fluid called sputum made in the lungs and airways. Neutrophils are part of the body's immune system, which helps fight off infection and illness. They can also be used as a measure of inflammation.

Meanwhile, no such improvements were seen in the patients who kept smoking.

"These findings highlight the importance of smoking cessation in asthma," the researchers conclude.

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