Emphysema is a chronic, irreversible disease of the lungs characterized by an abnormal enlargement of the alveoli, leading to scar tissue. Once the scar tissue develops, there is not an adequate amount of space in the lungs. The patient presents with difficulty exhaling.
Emphysema is a type of COPD which causes permanent enlargement of the airways in your lungs. It is accompanied by destruction of the walls of the alveoli, the air spaces in the lungs where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged during the breathing process. It is lung disease that progresses slowly over many years and is irreversible.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary destruction (COPD) is a factor in the progression of emphysema. Smoking is the number one cause of emphysema. Protein deficiency (AAt) is a rare hereditary cause of emphysema. The AAt protein protects the elastic structures of the lungs. Without this protein, the lungs eventually become damaged. If the hereditary factor is combined with smoking then emphysema may begin between age 30-40 and accelerate quickly.
Emphysema can increase the severity of chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart failure. Air pollution or respiratory infection can lead to extreme shortness of breath and dangerously low oxygen levels requiring a ventilator until the infection clears.
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