is a chronic respiratory condition most often caused by the destruction of lung tissue by toxins contained in
cigarette smoke. This, in turn, leads to chronic overinflation of the lungs, greatly decreasing their ability to function.
Emphysema results in destruction of the alveoli, the tiny air sacs in the lungs. Oxygen is delivered to the lungs and carbon dioxide is carried from the lungs across the walls of the alveoli. As more and more alveoli are damaged, it becomes harder and harder for the lungs to function, which can cause these symptoms:
Shortness of breath
Increasing difficulty exercising
Great difficulty exhaling
Cough with mucus production
As the disease progresses, breathing becomes increasingly difficult. In its most severe stage, virtually any physical activity becomes extremely difficult, if not impossible.
When a person complains of the chronic presence of the symptoms of emphysema, a physical exam and various
lung function tests
(spirometry) are done to confirm the diagnosis.
may also be done.
Since, at present, emphysema cannot be cured, the goals of treatment are to:
To slow emphysema's progression, the agent causing it must be removed. Since long-term smoking causes an overwhelming number of cases of emphysema, the only effective way to slow the progression of emphysema is to
There are many smoking cessation therapies available. Your doctor may also be able to prescribe a medication that may help you stop smoking.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to
be a substitute for professional medical advice.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or
with questions regarding a medical condition. To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding
the content please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.