Smoking is notorious for causing premature ageing of the skin, as well as causing emphysema and bronchitis, which block the airways and restrict the flow of oxygen around the body.
British researchers wanted to find out whether the extent of facial lines could be a telltale of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as this group of ailments is called.
They studied 149 current and former middle-aged smokers, 68 of whom had COPD. All were asked to breathe into a machine to measure their lung capacity, and their faces were assessed for wrinkles.
Eighty percent of the group had no or few lines, whereas the remaining 20 percent had extensive wrinkles.
Wrinkles strongly linked to COPD
After ironing out factors such as age and the number of years as a smoker, the researchers found that the "wrinkly" group were five times likelier to have COPD than non-wrinkly counterparts.
Facial wrinkling was also associated with triple the risk of severe emphysema.
The study, lead-authored by respiratory specialist Bipen Patel of the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust in Exeter, southwest England, is published online by Thorax, a journal of the British Medical Association (BMA).
A fast-track tip for doctors
The findings could provide a fast-track tip for doctors who are diagnosing patients, the researchers say.
"Extensive facial wrinkling may be a marker of susceptibility to the effects of cigarette smoke and should promote the screening of affected individuals for airflow obstruction," they say. – (Sapa-AFP)