Emphysema is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that affects the lungs. It is characterized by damage to the air sacs in the lungs, which causes them to lose their elasticity and ability to push air out. This makes it difficult to breathe and can cause a feeling of tightness in the chest.
The main cause of emphysema is long-term exposure to irritants, such as cigarette smoke or air pollution. Over time, these irritants cause inflammation and damage to the small airways and air sacs in the lungs. The damage to the air sacs reduces the surface area for gas exchange in the lungs, which can lead to low oxygen levels in the blood and difficulty breathing.
Symptoms of emphysema include shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, and a chronic cough. These symptoms may worsen over time, especially with continued exposure to irritants. Emphysema is a progressive disease, which means that it gets worse over time.
Treatment for emphysema typically involves medications to open the airways and reduce inflammation, as well as pulmonary rehabilitation to improve breathing and physical function. Oxygen therapy may be necessary in severe cases, and in some cases, surgery may be recommended to remove damaged lung tissue. Quitting smoking and avoiding exposure to irritants can also help manage symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.