What Is Emphysema?

What Is Emphysema?

Emphysema is a type of lung disease. It limits the movement of air in and out of your
lungs. This makes breathing harder. It’s most often caused by heavy, long-term cigarette
smoking. Emphysema is one of a group of conditions called chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease
 (COPD).

Healthy lungs

  • Inside the lungs are branching airways made of stretchy tissue. Each airway is wrapped with bands of muscle that help keep it open. Air travels in and out of the lungs through these airways.

  • The tubes branch into smaller passages called bronchioles. These end in clusters of balloon-like sacs called alveoli.

  • Blood vessels surrounding the alveoli move oxygen into the blood. At the same
    time, the alveoli remove carbon dioxide from the blood. The carbon dioxide is then
    exhaled.

When you have emphysema

  • Airways become damaged. When the lung tissue loses its stretchiness, the surrounding airways collapse more easily and trap air in the lungs. 

  • Damaged airways collapse when you exhale. This
    causes air to get trapped in the alveoli. This trapped air makes breathing
    harder.

  • Over time, the air sacs lose their clustered
    shape and don’t work well. And less oxygen gets into the blood.

  • The air sacs get larger. This makes it even
    harder for the lungs to move air in and out.