Respiratory Disorders Expert Forum
Effects of altitude on lungs
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Effects of altitude on lungs

My doctor has diagnosed me with COPD based on an X-ray although I have no other symtoms (symptoms). I do have the risk factor of smoing for 29 years, but quit almost fifty years ago. I have lived a lot of my 77 years at high altitudes (3 years at 15,000 feet, 12 years at over 5500 ft.) Can this lead to changes in the lungs that are similar to COPD?
242587_tn?1355427710
Changes in one’s chest X-ray can occur with COPD; changes, that is, that suggest the diagnosis.  But that is not the way to establish the diagnosis with any degree of certainty, especially in the circumstance like yours, in which you “have no other symptoms.”  That you have been able to live comfortably (I presume) at high altitude suggests that you either don’t have COPD or, if you do, that it is mild and of no consequence.  Your having smoked is a risk factor, but minimally so, given that you quit almost 50 years ago.  As we like to say, your opting to quit smoking was a death defying decision.

The answer to your question is NO.  Living at high altitude does not lead to changes similar to COPD.

If this assurance concerning COPD does not suffice, the best way to confirm what I say would be for you to have Pulmonary Function Testing.  What is called Simple Spirometry would suffice and is inexpensive.

Good luck
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