What is emphysema? Emphysema is a long-term lung disease. Emphysema is part of a group of lung diseases called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Emphysema damages the alveoli in your lungs. This makes it hard for your lungs to send oxygen to the rest of your body.

What causes emphysema? You are at higher risk of emphysema if you have had other lung conditions such as asthma and tuberculosis. Emphysema is most commonly caused by exposure to the following:

What are the signs and symptoms of emphysema? Your signs and symptoms may develop over time. You may not notice them until they start to interfere with your daily activities.

How is emphysema diagnosed? Your caregiver will ask about your symptoms and examine you. He will ask if you smoke or are exposed to smoke, air pollution, dust, or chemicals.

How is emphysema treated? The most important thing you can do to treat your emphysema is to stop smoking. The following may help you breathe easier and return to your normal activities:

What is an exacerbation of emphysema? An exacerbation is when your symptoms suddenly get worse. You may have a harder time breathing, your cough may get worse, and you may cough up more sputum. You may have a fever, an increased heart rate, or feel sleepy. An exacerbation may be caused by a lung infection, air pollution, or other lung irritants. Sometimes the cause of an exacerbation is unknown. Your caregiver may change your treatment to help relieve exacerbations.

How can I help manage my emphysema and prevent an exacerbation?

What are the risks of emphysema?

When should I contact my caregiver? Contact your caregiver if:

When should I seek immediate care? Seek care immediately or call 911 if:


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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