Emphysema is a form of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The number one cause of Emphysema is smoking and results in damage to lung tissue and the air sacs in the lungs.
Damage to lung tissue and specifically the air sacs in the lungs makes it difficult for oxygen to pass into blood vessels. As a result, you may feel short of breath and breathing may feel more difficult. Breathing more often is also common as your body tries to bring more oxygen into your lungs. Emphysema is progressive (gets worse with time) and symptoms become more severe with time especially if you continue to smoke.
Diagnosis is made with a breathing test that measures your lung function and level of damage to the air sacs in your lungs. Your healthcare provider may also order a chest x-ray or CAT scan.
Individuals who smoke are at greater risk of developing emphysema and the risk increases with the amount an individual smokes. Stopping smoking can slow the progression of emphysema, but no cure exists for the disease. Other treatments include inhaled medication (including steroids), oxygen therapy, antibiotics for infection and preventing other lung conditions through vaccination and health maintenance.