Health Information
Emphysema

Definition
The word “emphysema” comes from a Greek word meaning “to inflate”.  This occurs when small spaces in both lungs become permanently enlarged because of damage to their walls. These enlarged air spaces trap air in the lung (inflate) and interfere with normal lung function.

Causes
By far the most common cause of emphysema is cigarette smoking. Air pollution in large industrial cities may aggravate emphysema but usually does not cause it. Emphysema occurs more commonly in men than women and is more common after the age of fifty.  Very rarely, emphysema is caused by an inherited absence of a protein which protects lung tissue against injury.

Symptoms
The most common symptoms of emphysema is shortness of breath, especially with exercise. Sometimes cold or hot, humid weather makes it worse.  Emphysema may also cause wheezing (musical high-pitched sounds made during breathing), fatigue, and occasionally a dry cough.

Treatment
Emphysema is not curable but treatment can improve quality of life and decrease the symptoms. The following treatments often can help patients with emphysema:

Common Questions and Answers

Q. How much exercise is safe? 
We recommend regular walks or any exercise you enjoy.  Stop for a                      
rest period when you feel short of breath.

Q.  When should I call a physician?
Call at the first sign of any chest infection (fever, discolored phlegm) or any   
sudden increase in shortness of breath.

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