Emphysema is a lung disease that harms the air sacs or alveoli in the lungs, causing them to lose their elasticity. This can lead to the formation of blockages or obstructions that trap air inside the lungs, resulting in difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. The primary cause of emphysema is smoking, which is responsible for the majority of cases

Alveoli are small, thinwalled, fragile air sacs that form clusters at the end of the bronchial tubes or airways deep within the lungs. When a person inhale air, it travels through the bronchial tubes until it reaches the alveoli. Once inside, the alveoli stretch, draws in oxygen, and delivers it to the blood. With emphysema, the alveoli are weakened and ruptured. This reduces the surface area of the lungs and, as a result, the amount of oxygen in circulation. The old air becomes trapped, preventing fresh, oxygenrich air from entering.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is made up of two conditions: emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The majority of people who have emphysema also have chronic bronchitis. The most common cause of COPD is smoking. Treatment for emphysema usually involves quitting smoking and taking medications. This can only slow emphysema down but cannot heal the existing damage to the lungs


Emphysema can often remain undetected for an extended period, and individuals may not experience any noticeable signs or symptoms until the condition has caused significant damage, typically destroying at least half of the lung tissue. The primary symptom of emphysema is shortness of breath, which usually begins slowly and can occur even during periods of rest.

As the disease progresses, other symptoms may include

  • Fatigue 
  • Coughing over an extended period, or smokers cough
  • Increased mucus production
  • Feeling of not getting enough air
  • Chest tightness
  • Wheezing
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Heart issues 

People with emphysema might want to avoid activities that may trigger shortness of breath. The symptom usually does not become an issue until it interferes with daily activities.

It is recommended to call the emergency hotline or get medical assistance right away if the shortness of breath becomes severe. It may be accompanied by lips or fingernails that turned blue or gray and loss of mental alertness.  

It is essential not to disregard the symptoms or delay seeking medical assistance. While the damage caused by emphysema cannot be reversed, prompt treatment can help to slow down the progression of the disease.


Emphysema is a medical condition that usually occurs as a result of prolonged smoking. Smoking causes damage to the lung tissue and irritation to the airways, which leads to inflammation and harm to the cilia. This, in turn, causes the airways to become swollen, resulting in mucus production and difficulty in clearing the airways. All of these factors contribute to shortness of breath, which is a common symptom of emphysema.

Other causal factors may include chronic exposure to:

  • Marijuana smoke 
  • Vaping and ecigarettes 
  • Air pollution 
  • Fumes from chemicals 
  • Dust 

Genetic factors such as alpha1 antitrypsin deficiency can also cause emphysema. The alpha1antitrypsin deficiency is caused by a hereditary lack of a protein that protects the lungs’ elastic components

Risk factors

There are several factors that affects the risk of having emphysema, such as:

  • Age: The development of emphysemarelated lung damage is a slow process, but individuals who have developed tobaccorelated emphysema typically start experiencing symptoms of the condition between the ages of 40 and 60.
  • Smoking: The number of years and the amount of cigarette smoked affects the risk of developing emphysema. Cigarettes, cigar, and pipe smokers are all at risk
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke: This raises the chances of acquiring emphysema. This refers to the smoke that is unintentionally inhaled from other peoples cigarette, pipe, or cigar. It is also known as passive or environmental tobacco smoke
  • Occupational exposure to fumes or dust: In addition to smoke, chronic exposure to fumes, strong fragrances, cleaning chemicals, paint/varnish, dust, pollen, and pet dander may increase ones risk of developing emphysema.
  • Exposure to indoor and outdoor pollution: Pollutants from outdoor and indoor raise the risk of emphysema. This includes heating fuel fumes and car emissions.