What is emphysema?
Emphysema is a lung disease that reduces the ability of the lungs to expel air, a process which depends upon the natural rubber-band-like quality or elastic properties of the lungs. Emphysema is a type of chronic obstructive airway disease, or COPD. People with COPD have limitations in the flow of air through their airways. Emphysema involves the gradual
destruction of alveoli in the lungs. The alveoli are air spaces where oxygen is exchanged with carbon dioxide in the blood.
Emphysema is lung disease that occurs when the tiny air sacs in the lungs are damaged, usually as a result of long-term smoking. Once this damage has occurred, it cannot be repaired. It causes difficulty breathing and shortness of breath that gets worse over time. Emphysema is a respiratory disease in which the alveoli, the tiny air sacs in the lungs, become enlarged. This enlargement causes the alveoli walls to break down, or rupture, narrowing the airways. The narrowed airways make it difficult to breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Emphysema gradually destroys the lung tissue. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis, which often occur together, cause a condition known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Emphysema permanently enlarges and irreversibly damages the alveoli, damages the ends and walls of the smallest bronchioles (the tiny breathing tubes that branch off from the trachea and bronchi), and diminishes the elasticity of the lungs. Emphysema ranks 15th among chronic diseases that contribute to limitation of physical activity. About 44% of those with emphysema report that their daily activities have been limited by the condition.
The most common cause of emphysema is smoking. Long-term exposure to smoke causes destruction of the alveoli. The ability of the lungs to provide oxygen to the body decreases. As a result, the person finds it increasingly difficult to breathe and to exercise without discomfort. Emphysema occurs most often in people older than age 40 who have smoked for many years. Long-term exposure to secondhand smoke also may play a role. Among other causes of emphysema are industrial pollutants, aerosol sprays, non-tobacco smoke, internal-combustion engine exhaust, and physiological atrophy associated with old age (senile emphysema). Physical damage caused by an accident and followed by scarring can give rise to scar emphysema; severe respiratory efforts can rupture alveoli in cases of near suffocation, whooping cough, labor (child-bearing), and acute bronchopneumonia. Tuberculosis and asthma can also give rise to lung overstretching, severely damaging the elastic fibers of the alveoli walls and bringing on emphysema.
More information on emphysema
What is emphysema? - Emphysema is a lung disease that reduces the ability of the lungs to expel air, a process which depends upon the elastic properties of the lungs.
What causes emphysema? - Cigarette smoking is the major cause of emphysema. Among other causes of emphysema are industrial pollutants, aerosol sprays, non-tobacco smoke.
What're the risk factors for emphysema? - The primary risk factor for the development of emphysema is tobacco abuse. Air pollution is another risk factor for emphysema.
What are the complications of emphysema? - Emphysema patients are at increased risk of contracting recurrent respiratory infections and lung cancer. Emphysema is a very serious disease.
What are the symptoms of emphysema? - Symptoms of emphysema include shortness of breath on exertion, unexplained weight loss, increased chest size, wheezing or labored breathing.
How is emphysema diagnosed? - Diagnosis of emphysema begins with a medical history and physical examination. Lung function tests can identify emphysema in Stage 0.
What's the treatment for emphysema? - No treatment can reverse or stop emphysema, but steps can be taken to relieve symptoms, treat complications and minimize disability.
How to prevent emphysema? - Many risk factors for emphysema can be completely eliminated. The best method to prevent emphysema is to avoid smoking.