Emphysema is characterized by damage to the air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs. Clinically it is defined as “abnormal and permanent enlargement of air spaces distal to the terminal bronchioles.” The alveoli of the lungs are responsible for oxygen exchange between the air and the blood. In emphysema, damage to the alveoli leads to in adequate oxygen intake and makes it very difficult for patients to properly breathe. The primary symptom is shortness of breath, which eventually worsens as the disease progresses. Smoking is the most common cause but emphysema can also be caused by an inherited condition called alpha-1 antitrypsin (ATT) deficiency in which ATT, a protein that prevents the production of elastase, a lung-damaging protein, is deficient or absent.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is a chronic lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. The disease is increasingly common, affecting millions of Americans, and is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. More than 11 million people in the U.S. suffer from COPD. It causes serious long-term disability and early death. There's no cure, but COPD can be prevented and treated.
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