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Avatar universal

29 yr old girlfriend has emphysema

Is it possible to be diagnoased with moderate emphysema at only 29 years old?  My girlfriend is a heavy smoker and has been having trouble breathing and chest pains for sometime, and fairly recently coughed up blood on a few different occasions.  Finally she went to the Doctor, who told her she may have moderate stage emphesyma, although they want to run more tests to confirm. I can't believe she could get it so young, is that really possible?

She typically chain smokes almost 3 packs of cigarettes a day, although sometimes more in the past; and She's been heavy smoker as long as Ive known her, since we were in 8th grade together and I first fell head over heels for her. She says she started smoking before that, around age 11, and she said there is no way she could possibly quit, although she thinks she may be able to cut down to 2 packs a day or so if she "absolutely had to". I dont think she is taking this seriously enough, even when she's wheezing and gasping desperately for air after doing something like walking up one flight of stairs; but I don't know what to do.

I dont mean to sound naieve, but is it really possible for a 29 year old woman to have stage emphysema after just 18 years of heavy smoking?

Would it help if she cut down to 2 packs a day?

How bad could this get if she is not able to cutback on the amount that she smokes every day?  
12 Responses
1279874 tn?1300314043

Im sorry to say it, but it definitely is possible for your girlfriend to develop emphysema before age 30, especially given her extensive smoking history. Im only 25 years old, and have been smoking since I was 12, and this last year I was also diagnosed with emphysema and COPD after I was hospitalized for a collapsed lung. Its been an awful year, trying to deal with the debilitating and rapid onset of emphysema and unsuccessfully trying to kick a 2 pack a day addiction; and its never something I thought would happen to me in my 20s.

There is alot of helpful advice on this board; but I cant help but notice that it seems like more and more young women have been developing emphysema or COPD in their 20s or 30s, most of whom starting smoking in their teens or early teens. I think that for whatever reason, young women from our generation seem to have started smoking much earlier than they used to. My grandmother died several years ago from emphysema and related complications when she was 64, but she had said she didnt start smoking until she was around age 30, which was apparently more common back in the 1950s and 1960s.

The most important thing is for you to emphasize the real and pressing need for her to seriously try to quit smoking. I have been unable to quit smoking in my year or so since my diagnosis, and it has been a very costly choice, as my emphysema continued to progress rapidly. As of last month I had to start I carrying an oxygen tank around with me to assist with breathing, however I continue to be unable to stop smoking, even though its destroying my lungs. Nothing looks more foolish than a 25 year old woman, carrying around her oxygen tank, taking frequent smoke breaks at work.   While I used to love smoking, I am now coming to grips with the fact that I have seriously injured my health this past year because of my weakness and inability to quit smoking, even after being diagnosed with emphysema. Ignoring her doctors advice would be a mistake, trust me.

with love and hope,

If thumb sucking was socially acceptable this problem wouldn't have happened.
Avatar universal
I'm so sorry to hear that Johnnie. Im with Chelsea 100%. I can't believe how many other young women like us, also in their 20s, who and are being diagnosed with early onset emphysema, I feel its almost like a silent epidemic.

Im a 27 year old heavy smoker on oxygen almost 24/7 and I am struggeling with late stage emphysema. Before being diagnosed with emphysema two years ago, I was routinely smoking upto 4 or even 5 packs a day since I was about 16. When I used to tell people how much I honestly smoked everyday, they wouldnt believe me.

Of course it started before that. I began stealing cigarettes from my mom when I was in elementry school, and was smoking about half-a-pack a day before my 11th birthday. When my mom caught me smoking she tried to be cool about it, and would let me smoke at the house and buy me cigarettes. Even as bad off as I am now, I dont suppose Im angry with her about that, because she herself was also a smoker, she was just doing what I wanted and didnt want to fight with me about it. Maybe I was just a natural born chainsmoker, but before I knew what was going on, and I was 13 years old and puffing through at almost two packs a day.

Needless to say, I got really into the whole chainsmoking teenager persona, and Im paying the price for it now. That kept getting worse and worse until I was slavishly addicted needing at least 3 packs a day to keep sane and completely unwilling to settle for any job that didnt allow me to smoke at work. When I was 16 I dropped out of school, and I got a job working at a home based call center network. I thought I was the greatest job ever, because I could just stay at my house in front of a computer and phone and chainsmoke the day away.

People didnt believe I really did smoke 4 or 5 packs a day, so Id usualy just lie and say that I smoked "maybe two packs a day". That was until I was diagnosed with emphysema two years ago.

Naturally, once youre as addicted as I was, the same thing happened to me that happened Chelsea, and I couldnt cut back on smoking enough to make a difference. With me barely able to contain my smoking my lung function continued to spiral downward, until the point where I am today, chained to oxygen nearly 24/7, and coughing up thick ropy mucus as a daily penance while still feebly trying to feed my pathetic addiction.  

Even though I have severe doubts about whether or not I will make it to see 30, I think the worst thing of all is to know that I did this to myself and to be unable to stop. I wish both of you two better luck than I've had.

Avatar universal

Im so glad to know Im not alone. I thought I must be the only young woman under 35 to have developed serious, life threatening lung conditions as a result of my idiotic chain smoking. Im so sorry to hear about both of your situations Jenny and Chelsea, but Im sure that we can all find a way to work through this together.

I too have had to lie to my friends, family and co-workers for years about how much I really smoked; pretending to only smoke 'about a pack a day", when in reality its more like 3 packs a day, sometimes more. I cant fully explain my total need to chainsmoke so much, and how much it completely dominates every aspect of my life, from my job to my relationships, its almost like everything I did for the past 20 years was just to enable me to smoke more. It sounds like you to understand.

But just like everyone else, my lies seem to have eventually caught up to me. When I went to the doctor about a month ago complaining of trouble breathing and chest pains, I lied to him and told him I only smoked maybe a pack a day. When I went back to see him last week, he saw right through my lies, and asked how long I had been smoking 3 packs a day. I pretended to not know what he was talking about, until he showed me the Xray with two spots on my lungs. Then I couldnt stop crying.

I too have been so distraught by the news that I havent found the will to even try to quit yet. Right now, my cigarettes are my only comfort, so I cant let them go and am smoking as much as ever. Im not on oxygen yet, but based on where else the doctors find what they think could be cancer, I might not even make it another year to see my 32nd birthday.

For now, Im hoping for the best, and trying to enjoy my dam cigarettes while I still can, before its too late.

1533352 tn?1307058256

I'm sorry to hear about your girlfriend Jonnie. Although she sounds kinda young to already have early stage emphesyma, i guess its entirely possible that your girlfriend could have it, especially if she smokes anywhere near as much as she said she does.

My mother was diagnoased with COPD when she was 38, and she only smoked about 2 packs a day. That was like 9 or 10 year ago, and my mother's COPD has gotten worse lately, making it where she cant really work and has a hard time getting around the house, and is often wheezing heavily. She was also diagnosed with Emphesyma a few years ago, I think when she was maybe 45 or so. Of course, my mother wont quit smoking either, so she only gets worse.

No offense to the other posters, but yall's smoking related health problems is absolutely horrifying to me...and im a smoker too. 3 or 4 or 5 packs a day? every day since you were 11 or 12 ? oh my god no wonder all of you have been having breathing problems.  For your sake I hope you all are doing better at getting your smoking under control and doing better with your conditions.

- Rachel
1534282 tn?1294332545

I hope your fiancee is taking her emphysema diagnosis seriously, no matter how young she is. My older sister was diagnosed with bullemous emphysema three years ago when she was only 32 years old and its been pretty debilitating for her. She had worked as a cocktail waitress in smoke filled bars for years, and had been a fairly heavy smoker since she was a teenager, despite having lifelong asthma problems.

She ignored her diagnosis and kept on chainsmoking a couple of packs a day, pushing herself too hard even when she was short of breath and working too many long hours; until last year when her lung collapsed while she was at work and she nearly suffocated before EMS arrived. She ended up having bullectomy surgery done, but her lung capacity is permanently diminished and she cant work on her feet at the bar anymore so they had to let her go. Now about the job she can do without gasping for air is desk type secretarial type work for a temp agency, earning barely half what she used to make as a cocktail waitress.

Worst of all, my sister still can't quit smoking no matter how hard she tries, although she's down to only a half pack a day, which is better but still not enough to save her from ruining her health.

I wish your fiancee the very best of luck trying to quit or at least cut back!  Believe me, Its never too late to try to quit again!
1279874 tn?1300314043

Was your girlfriend ever able to cut back to where she was smoking less than three packs a day?    I'm still struggeling with trying to kick my never ending 2 pack a day addiction, as my emphysema has taken an unexpected turn for the worse lately, so I hope that she's fairing better than I have.
Cheers to a hopeful New Years resolution!

Avatar universal
Im a 23 yr old former smoker. I, however, only smoked a pack a day, usually just under that at 10-15 cigarrettes a day since i was 13.. quitting for abt two years in between. So totaling 9 years i smoked... in that time, i also, like the rest caused damage to my body: heart and lungs. I have asthma now, i never had before. I dont have copd or emphasyma
Avatar universal
Im a 23 yr old former smoker. I, however, only smoked a pack a day, usually just under that at 10-15 cigarrettes a day since i was 13.. quitting for abt two years in between. So totaling 9 years i smoked... in that time, i also, like the rest caused damage to my body: heart and lungs. I have asthma now, i never had before. I don't have copd or emphysema (yet) but am always short of breath and heart skips and beats very rapid, my gum line is receeded as well. From reading these posts, ill never take another drag again, im 4 months without and never wanna get where you all are. I pray for the best for all of you! To the man above me, did you ever find the strength to quit??
Avatar universal
Do any of you guys that have COPD have pain or pressure around your solar plexus area? Bloating or anything like that?  I'm a smoker of about 14 years I smoke anywhere from 1-15 cigs a day. I've been having this pressure/pain right below my rib cage/solar plexus area, it's hard to breathe, especially if I smoke a cig. I've done every test imaginable EXCEPT spiro test. Do any of you guys have the same symptoms? I've had this problem for awhile now and it seem like it's getting worse.
10288375 tn?1409068426
Hello Claire,

I woke up this morning after only three hours of sleep since I pulled another all night writing spree smoking one after another after another.  I had to sleep on the sofa (not in bed with my fiancee) with my legs elevated on pillows since I retain water from prescription Suboxone for my former opiate dependence.

On top of that, I've acquired asthma out of the woodwork, just last year, in 2013, at only 29 years old.  I am like an old man already and if you would have told me at 15 when I began literally smoking "a pack a day" about my future as a 30 year old, I'd have tried harder.  I can never breathe.  I am an extremely anxious and panicky person who also takes pills to calm down my nerves and this morning it's all hitting me.  I've been having so much of trouble trying to breathe fully all of the time - my inhaler doesn't always do the job, my Ativan merely takes the edge off, and since I was young (most likely since I began smoking - at 12, stealing cigs once and a while out of my Dad's pack) I get this panicky feeling as if I am breathing artificial air - I can't describe it any other way.

It made me so nervous this morning that I actually grew some strength and Google'd "30 year old smoker difficulty breathing" and found this blog at the top.  I am grateful for it but started crying also.  I used to lie during my dope addiction which nearly cost me my life and battered my health to the point where I feel 10-15 years older physically.  But as far as "lying about the # of packs I smoke a day" - I've never seen it that way.  I guess I am in denial to people, esp. doctors and loved ones.  I have been wiping packs of cigs out like it's nothing.  30 yrs old, health below average, gained 50 lbs from out of nowhere (sitting on computer mostly, looking for work, being lazy), I don't have a job because my felonies keep me looking horrible to people so the more I stay home, the more cigarettes I smoke, the more I eat, and the more I cannot breathe and the more my legs retain water that used to be in just my feet and ankles but lately (about a month or so) the water has been rising all the way into my hips and over/around my knees!

Claire, I'm sorry.  I know you are not a doctor but you inspired me to vent and made me feel so much better but at the same time, made me feel sad and uncomfortable which I should be because it's comfort in sin and habits that makes us worse and can/will eventually kill us.  I really need to quit. I definitely am smoking WAY more than a pack a day like I always say, I'd guess it is around 2 1/2.  Ahh, and my Grandma passed from Emphysema at 71 I think - after smoking 5 packs a day; my dad smokes 2-3 packs and my mom cut down to 1, but she was at 3 packs a day easy to as she was a waitress always smoking on break then at home reading books.

It scares me because it runs in the family, I mean, last time I filled out one of those doctor forms, actually it was the dentist - I literally checked each disease off of the list because I realized dead or alive, every family member of mine - both sides - had or currently has a disease, condition, or mental deficiency/disorder and/or addiction/drug dependency issues.  I don't want to contract anything at only 30 years old and I pray continually for all of you who are my age that are suffering.  May you live a long life and be healed. I hope you can cut down Claire.  You sound too pessimistic about your life ending at 32 possibly and it made me sad.  But it worked because I finally am talking about it publicly.  So thank you and I hope your outlook gets a bit happier and more optimistic.  Kind, Regards, Tommy
Avatar universal
Yes its very very likely to happen. I am a 23 year old chain smoker. I started smoking at 9yo, my mom did not know but my step dad did. He let me smoke. Got me as many as i wanted. He did not buy me a pack or 2 at a time, he bought them by the carton. At 9 i was able to get up to a pack a day sense my mom worked nights. By 12 i was at 2ppd solid. I got into smoking multiples. I would smoke 4 or 5 at once some days. By 14 i was staying up all night chaining. I was at 3ppd at 14. Had no health issues Other than i had to quit track. i stayed at 3ppd until i graduated school at 18 then quickly went up to 4ppd. 2 months before my 19th birthday i was told i had COPD and Emphysema. At the time it was mild. Not a big deal until. i did cut back to 3ppd for a few weeks but some how got up to 4.5 packs a day. By 21 i was in stage 3 copd and emphysema and on oxygen full time. Im in the final stages now. Will not live to be 25. It is more common than people think. I know a 31yo who is also in her final stages.
That's terrible to hear that u have Copd and emphysema, and at a very young age,but unfortunaly all that heavy smoking catches up with people, cause there's nothing good about smoking, it's a very bad difficult addiction to break,I never been a smoker,but I've know a lot of people that smoke and say it's so difficult to break the addiction and have tried to quit but cant
Avatar universal
I was born with Asthma and I smoked one pack every week and a half and I just ended up in the hospital a month ago because my doctors could not get my oxygen level up and now im going through all these tests to see if I have having breathing troubles because of allergies or if I do infact have emphysema which the dr said could be a possibility. I am only 31 and how two small children that I do not want to leave alone at an early age. I am scared...any advice would be nice
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