We know: All About Emphysema and COPD

What is emphysema?

Emphysema is a lung condition in which the air sacs lose their elasticity. The result is that breathing is impaired and air flow is obstructed.

What is chronic bronchitis?

Chronic bronchitis is a persistent inflammation of the bronchi or the main air passages in the lungs. It is characterized by excessive bronchial mucus and a productive cough that produces mucus for at least 3 months in 2 consecutive years.

Put them together and you have COPD

COPD stands for 'chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.' The term means that the patient has both emphysema and chronic bronchitis occurring together.

COPD is a major cause of death and illness throughout the world. It is the 4th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the world.

What happens to your breathing and lungs with COPD?

Less air gets in and less air goes out because:

  • The airways and air sacs lose their elasticity (like an old rubber band)
  • The walls between many of the air sacs are destroyed
  • The walls of the airways become thick and inflamed (swollen)
  • Cells in the airways make more mucus (sputum) than usual, which tends to clog the airways.

What are the symptoms of COPD?

Most people with COPD are at least 40 years old or around middle age when symptoms start. It is unusual, but possible, for people less than 40 years old to have COPD.

The common symptoms of emphysema and COPD are:

  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • chest tightening
  • sputum or mucus
  • wheezing
  • difficulty exercising

What are the causes of emphysema and COPD?

Causes include:

  • smoking
  • heredity, including either a particular protein deficiency or a deficient gene
  • Working around certain kinds of chemicals and breathing in the fumes for many years
  • Working in a dusty area over many years
  • Heavy exposure to air pollution.

What are some of the treatments for emphysema and COPD?

Treatments include:

  1. quitting smoking, to help repair damaged lungs
  2. bronchodilator drugs to help open air passages
  3. antibiotics
  4. steroids
  5. oxygen therapy
  6. exercise
  7. drugs for protein deficiency
  8. lung surgery to remove damaged portions
  9. lung transplant

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