Emphysema is a long-term (chronic), irreversible lung disease that occurs when the tiny air sacs in the lungs are damaged, usually as a result of long-term smoking. It causes difficulty breathing and shortness of breath that gets worse over time.
Emphysema is a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
A rare type of emphysema is caused by the lack of a substance in the lungs called alpha1-antitrypsin. This type of emphysema is usually inherited.
Last Revised: January 27, 2012
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine & Ken Y. Yoneda, MD - Pulmonology
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