Do Lungs Stay Black After Quitting Smoking?

Firstly, if you have given up smoking, a ‘congratulations’ is in order.

Well done!

It is no easy feat: quitting smoking is one of the most difficult things you could ever do. But now that you have made this decision, it is important to keep track of what happens to your lungs after you stop smoking.

If you are considering giving up smoking, but haven’t gotten to that point yet, this article is also for you.

It is essential to know what is really going on inside our bodies, whether we are actively smoking tobacco or not. Sometimes, fully knowing what is going on with our organs can help us make that decision to give up our bad habits, and, potentially, save our own lives.

If you quit smoking, you should expect some changes in your body.

The good news is that these changes usually go away within a year or two. However, if you have smoked for a long time, you might develop – or have already developed – some serious health problems.

Smoking causes damage to your lungs, heart, blood vessels, and other organs. 

This damage leads to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which can cause shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness. COPD affects more than 16 million people in the United States alone. It also increases your risk of developing cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and osteoporosis.

Of course, we cannot see our organs ourselves: it’s not as if we can cut our chests open and physically check if our lungs are pink or black. However, even if we cannot see them visually, it is the symptoms that will let us know how healthy our lungs truly are.

In this article, we are going to be looking at the different symptoms that can indicate whether your lungs are healthy or unhealthy, and what they mean for your own body. 

Perhaps you are wondering if your lungs will ever regain their full capacity. Or, maybe you just want to know if your lungs stay black when you quit smoking. We’ll discuss both questions here.

So, can an ex-smoker’s lungs ever lose their black hue? Is it possible to fully reverse these side effects?

Let’s find out.

Why Does Smoking Make Your Lungs Go Black?

As we all know, a healthy person’s lungs are plump, fit, and a reddish-pink color. When a person smokes cigarettes, their lungs become black, dark, and struggle to take in oxygen.

A single inhale of a cigarette will release hundreds of chemicals into your body, including tar, nicotine, carbon monoxide, and ammonia. 

These harmful substances stick to the walls of your airways and lead to inflammation. Over time, this inflammation damages your lungs’ cells and makes them grow scar tissue. This process is called fibrosis.

The sticky tar in tobacco clogs up the small airways inside a smoker’s lungs over time. These tiny airways connect with larger tubes called bronchioles: they help remove waste from the lungs and keep them clean. If the tar blocks up these smaller airways, then it makes breathing more difficult.

The tar in question is a dark black color. So, when the substance gets into the lungs, it stains the lining of the airways. As the years pass by, the tar builds up on the inner surface of the airways until they become completely blocked, and the lungs themselves become black.

A smoker’s lungs also contain a lot more blood clots than a healthy, non-smoker’s lungs.

These clots also cause the airways to narrow, making breathing much more difficult. In addition, cigarette smoke irritates the lining of the small airways, causing them to swell. Over time, this swelling blocks airflow through the lungs.

Will Your Lungs Stay Black After Quitting Smoking?

Yes, but not forever.

Just like most things in life, lung recovery doesn’t happen overnight. Yes, once you stop smoking, your lungs will slowly return to normal, but it may take several months before you notice any noticeable difference, physically or visually. 

During this period, your lungs will continue to be affected by the toxins in cigarette smoke, and they’ll still contain some black discoloration.

However, as time passes, the amount of tar and other toxins in your system will decrease. Your lungs gradually return to their original pinkish-red color, but only if you completely quit smoking altogether.

It will take around three weeks for your lungs to heal fully, and another six to nine months for the remaining black spots to disappear. During this recovery phase, you might have trouble getting rid of mucus buildup in your throat. You could also experience coughs and sneezes that last longer than usual.

You will never get to see the exact color of your own lungs. This means you will never know what color they are while you smoke, and after you have quit smoking. You will only be able to feel the effects of quitting smoking, rather than visually witnessing your organs healing on the inside.

How Long Does It Take For An Ex-Smoker’s Lungs To Fully Recover?

If you completely quit smoking tobacco, your lungs will begin healing right away.

Only 12 hours after your last cigarette, your lungs should start clearing out the mucus that has built up inside your airways.

Within two days, you should no longer experience coughing fits.

By day four, your coughs should subside, and your lungs should start looking healthier. The skin of your nose and mouth will begin returning to its former pinkish hue, and your eyesight will improve.

You can expect to feel better within a few weeks, even though your lungs haven’t healed yet. 

However, it will take about six to nine months for all traces of tar and other toxins to leave your body. Your lungs will slowly return to their original pinkish red color during this time, but only if they’ve been exposed to absolutely nothing else besides fresh air. If you smoke again, your lungs will quickly turn black again.

The longer you go without smoking, the  healthier your lungs will become. You won’t experience the benefits right away, but you will eventually start noticing improvements.

How Will I Know If My Lungs Are Recovering?

You can tell whether your lungs are beginning to recover by monitoring your symptoms, and noticing changes in your health.

For example, if you’re experiencing coughing fits, you should probably visit your doctor, especially if you have given up smoking for several months. If you’re having difficulty breathing, you should contact your doctor right away. They can perform tests to determine whether there is anything wrong with your lungs.

However, coughing fits will sometimes occur after you have given up smoking because your lungs are clearing out the mucus build up. So, this may be a sign of recovery, especially if you find that you are finding it easier to breathe overall. Your best bet is to speak to your doctor to double-check.

If you’ve been suffering from chronic bronchitis, you should be feeling better within a couple of weeks. Chronic bronchitis is caused by inflammation of the airway walls, which makes it harder to breathe. It usually occurs when someone smokes tobacco products for long periods of time.

When you quit smoking, you’ll likely notice improvements in your energy levels, too. As you quit smoking, your body will automatically produce less carbon dioxide. This causes your blood pressure to drop, which helps to lower your heart rate.

Over time, your lungs will regain their ability to breathe properly. You should find you have no trouble breathing at all.

This gradual recovery takes place because your body has built up an immunity against the effects of smoking. Once you’ve stopped smoking for a while, your immune system will begin to fight off the toxins that remain in your body.

When Should I Become Worried That My Lungs Are Not Healing?

There are a couple of warning signs that you may want to look out for if you have given up smoking.

Your first warning sign should come as soon as you realize that you aren’t getting any better. When you stop smoking, you should see, at least, some improvement within the next week or two. But if you don’t see any change in your condition after a month or so, then you should definitely call your doctor.

Another warning sign comes when you start coughing up blood. Coughing up blood isn’t normal, and it’s something that you should immediately seek medical attention for. If you cough up blood on a regular basis, you could be developing cancerous tumors in your lungs.

It’s also important to note that you shouldn’t expect your lungs to heal completely overnight. In fact, they might never fully recover. For instance, if you had emphysema before you started smoking, it might take years to get rid of those damaged tissues.

It’s tricky, because you will need to have some patience to allow your body to recover: as we said previously, your lungs will not fully heal overnight. However, it is also critical for you to keep an eye on your symptoms during this time, and be quick to act if something doesn’t feel right.

Final Thoughts

So, do lungs stay black after quitting smoking? Yes, but not forever.

Lungs do begin to recover immediately after quitting smoking. However, the recovery process takes longer than you would expect.

In most cases, your lungs will return to their original state once you have quit smoking for several months. However, there are exceptions to this rule. You will need to keep track of your symptoms once you have fully given up, and speak to your doctor if you notice anything unusual.

The sooner you quit smoking, the faster your lungs will be able to recover.

Jonie Dean
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