What is emphysema?

Fact Checked

Emphysema is a lung condition that arises after many years of smoking. Once this condition develops, it could not be reversed. Due to this, avoiding smoking or cessation is vital.


The condition involves damage to the air sac walls of the lungs. While inhaling, the alveoli stretch to draw in oxygen and transport it to the blood. During exhalation, the alveoli shrink and forces carbon dioxide out of the body.

Once the condition develops, the alveoli and lung tissues are destroyed. Due to this, the alveoli could not support the bronchial tubes where they collapse and result to an obstruction that traps air within the lungs. If there is excess air trapped in the lungs, it causes a barrel-chested appearance.

What are the causes?

Smoking is the main contributing factor for emphysema. Due to this, the condition can be prevented. The presence of air pollutants in the workplace, hereditary factors and respiratory infections might also play a role in causing the condition.

Smoking is the main contributing factor for emphysema.

It is important to note that cigarette smoking not only damages the lung tissues but also irritates the airways. This results to inflammation and damage to the cilia lining the bronchial tubes. This leads to enlarged airways, increased mucus production and difficulty breathing.

What are the signs?

The indications of emphysema might include the following:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased mucus production

Oftentimes, the symptoms are not evident until significant amount lung tissue has been impaired. Until this is reached, the only signs might include gradual shortness of breath and fatigue.


Since emphysema can worsen over time and there is no available cure, the treatment is aimed on slowing down the speed of deterioration. The treatment that is started is based on the seriousness of the condition.

  • Cessation of smoking – If an individual is smoking, it is best to quit. This is the vital step to take in protecting the lungs.
  • Bronchodilators – these medications work by relaxing the muscles around the airways. The drug can be administered via an inhaler to produce immediate effects and only have a few side effects than the oral variants.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs – these drugs work by reducing the inflammation in the airways.
  • Oxygen – this is suggested for cases in which the lungs could not get enough oxygen to the blood
  • Lung volume reduction surgery – this involves removal of a region of affected lung tissue and joining the remaining tissue together. This helps relieve pressure on the breathing muscles as well as improve the elasticity of the lungs.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top

The information posted on this page is for educational purposes only.
If you need medical advice or help with a diagnosis contact a medical professional

  • All firstaidreddeer.ca content is reviewed by a medical professional and / sourced to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

  • We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable websites, academic research institutions and medical articles.

  • If you feel that any of our content is inaccurate, out-of-date, or otherwise questionable, please contact us through our contact us page.