Emphysema is a lung disease that reduces the ability of the lungs to expel air, a process which depends upon the natural rubber-band-like quality or elastic properties of the lungs. Damage occurs to the tiny airways in the lungs called bronchioles. Bronchioles are joined to alveoli, tiny grape-like clusters of sacs in the lungs where oxygen from the air is exchanged for carbon dioxide from the body. The elastic properties of the lung reside in the tissue around the alveoli.
- Because the lungs lose elasticity they become less able to contract.
- This prevents the alveoli from deflating completely, and the person has difficulty exhaling.
- Hence, the next breath is started with more air in the lungs.
- The trapped "old" air takes up space, so the alveoli are unable to fill with enough fresh air to supply the body with needed oxygen.
A person with emphysema may feel short of breath during exertion and, as the disease progresses, even while at rest.
Emphysema is one of several irreversible lung diseases that diminish the ability to exhale. This group of diseases is called
For more information about bronchitis, go to Bronchitis.
Facts About Emphysema