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Emphysema

Emphysema

What Is Meant By  Emphysema?

Emphysema is a disease of the lungs that usually develops after many years of smoking. Along with asthma and chronic bronchitis, emphysema belongs to a group of lung diseases known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Emphysema affects the air sacs in your lungs. Normally, these sacs are elastic or stretchy. When you breathe in, each air sac fills up with air, like a small balloon. When you breathe out, the air sacs deflate, and the air goes out.

In emphysema, the walls between many of the air sacs in the lungs are damaged. This causes the air sacs to lose their shape and become floppy. The damage also can destroy the walls of the air sacs, leading to fewer and larger air sacs instead of many tiny ones. This makes it harder for your lungs to move oxygen in and carbon dioxide out of your body.

What are the symptoms of emphysema?

Some people have emphysema for years without knowing it. Some of its first signs are shortness of breath and coughing, especially during exercise or physical exertion. This continues to get worse until breathing is difficult all the time, even when resting.

Other symptoms may include.

  • Exhaustion
  • Weight loss
  • Depression

Some people may develop bluish-gray lips or fingernails from lack of oxygen. If this happens, seek medical attention immediately.

What causes emphysema?

Smoking is the number one factor. Because of this, emphysema is one of the most preventable types of respiratory diseases. Air pollutants in the home and workplace, genetic (inherited) factors (alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency), and respiratory infections can also play a role in causing emphysema.

Cigarette smoking not only destroys lung tissue, it also irritates the airways. This causes inflammation and damage to cilia that line the bronchial tubes. This results in swollen airways, mucus production, and

Difficulty clearing the airways. All of these changes can lead to shortness of breath.

How is emphysema diagnosed?

Your health care provider may use many tools to make a diagnosis:

  • A medical history, which includes asking about your symptoms
  • A family history
  • Other tests, such as lung function tests, a chest x-ray or CT scans, and blood tests.

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