Respiratory symptoms relate to physiological changes and inflammatory markers reflecting central but not peripheral airways. A study in 60-year-old 'healthy' smokers and never-smokers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The aim of this study was to evaluate the relationship between respiratory symptoms, lung function and inflammatory markers in 'healthy' smokers. The study population was recruited from an epidemiological study with subjects of the same age, 60 years. Only smokers who considered themselves healthy (n=58) and a random sample of never-smokers (n=34) were investigated. All subjects underwent lung function tests--spirometry, carbon monoxide transfer (DLco) and the single-breath N2 method (N2 test)--together with high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT). A flexible bronchoscopy with a bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) was performed in 30 smokers and 18 never-smokers. Bronchial biopsies were also taken. Smokers who reported non-specific respiratory problems, chronic bronchitis and wheezing in a symptom questionnaire had a lower forced expiratory volume in 1 sec (FEV1), FEV% and specific airway conductance (sGaw), lung function tests supposed to reflect the more central airways, than smokers without respiratory symptoms. A limited number of smokers with occasional non-specific respiratory problems also had more cytotoxic T cells (CD8) in bronchial biopsies. No differences were found in DLCO and the N2 test, lung function tests supposed to reflect the more peripheral airways including the alveoli, HRCT-diagnosed emphysema or inflammatory markers in blood and BAL between smokers with and without respiratory symptoms. It is concluded that even when smokers consider themselves 'healthy' they have mild symptoms that are related more to physiological changes and inflammatory markers that may reflect events in the central airways than to changes that may reflect events in the peripheral airways.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Respiratory Medicine and Allergy


  • lung function, inflammatory markers, respiratory symptoms, bronchial biopsies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-47
JournalRespiratory Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Publication categoryResearch