Emphysema is a chronic lung condition in which the air sacs (alveoli) may be:
Overinflation of the air sacs is a result of a breakdown of the alveoli walls. It
causes a decrease in respiratory function and breathlessness. Damage to the air sacs
can't be fixed. It causes permanent holes in the lower lung tissue.
Pulmonary emphysema is part of a group of lung diseases called COPD (chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease). COPD lung diseases cause airflow blockage and breathing
problems. The 2 most common conditions of COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Pulmonary emphysema occurs very slowly over time. It’s caused by:
Symptoms may be slightly different for each person. The following are the most common symptoms for pulmonary emphysema.
Early symptoms of pulmonary emphysema may include:
Other symptoms may include:
The symptoms of pulmonary emphysema may look like other lung conditions or health problems. See a healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Along with a complete health history and physical exam, your healthcare provider may
request pulmonary function tests. These tests help measure the lungs’ ability to
exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. The tests are often done with special machines into
which you breathe. They may include:
A spirometer is a device used to check lung function. Spirometry is one of the simplest, most common tests. It may be used to:
This device measures how fast you can blow air out of your lungs. Cough, inflammation, and mucus buildup can cause the large airways in the lungs to slowly narrow. This slows the speed of air leaving the lungs. This measurement is very important in seeing how well or how poorly the disease is being controlled.
These are done to check the amount of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the blood.
This test takes pictures of internal tissues, bones, and organs.
This test uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to make images of
the body. CT can show details such as the width of airways in the lungs and the
thickness of airway walls.
This test is done on the material that is coughed up from the lungs and into the mouth. A sputum culture is often used to see if an infection is present.
This is a test that records the electrical activity of the heart, shows abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias), and can help find heart muscle damage.
The goal of treatment for people with pulmonary emphysema is to live more comfortably with the disease, control symptoms, and prevent the disease from getting worse, with minimal side effects. There is no way to repair or regrow the damaged lung tissue.
Treatment may include:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
The University of Chicago Medicine
5841 S. Maryland Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637 | 773-702-1000
Appointments: Call UCM Connect at 1-888-824-0200