Dr. Nabi Darya Vali (AIIMS)MBBS

December 01, 2018

March 06, 2020


What is emphysema?

Emphysema is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) involving damage to the lung tissue. Emphysema leads to breathing difficulties and can prevent an individual from engaging comfortably in various daily activities and sports. It may be accompanied by other respiratory conditions like chronic bronchitis and persistent cough. In emphysema, the alveoli (air sacs) present in the lungs get damaged.

What are its main signs and symptoms?

The main symptoms of emphysema include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Breathlessness
  • Persistent cough
  • Tiredness
  • Changes in the chest shape (elevation of the chest)
  • Appearance of a blue tinge on the skin due to lack of oxygen

What are the main causes?

Emphysema is caused by:

  • Prolonged exposure to airborne irritants
  • Smoking
  • Exposure to severe air pollution
  • In rare cases, emphysema may be genetic.

Cigarette smoking is considered the greatest risk factor for emphysema. Exposure to passive smoke could also increase one’s risk. Emphysema may be an occupational hazard for individuals working in the mining industry.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

The diagnosis of emphysema involves lung function tests. These tests may help in determining the breathing rate and amount of oxygen the person is about to inhale. Other diagnostic tests include X-rays and CT scans.

The cure for emphysema is not yet available and this disease can only be managed symptomatically.

The doctor may provide anti-inflammatory medications to reduce the inflammation in the lungs.

Antibiotics may be given in case of chest infection.

Oxygen treatment may also be needed in severe cases.

There are preventive measures, which can be taken in order to prevent the disease from aggravating and becoming more severe. These include:

  • Stop smoking
  • Avoiding exposure to air pollutants
  • Use of breathing masks
  • Do regular exercise
  • Get vaccinations to obtain protection against chest infections


  1. American Lung Association. Emphysema. [Internet]
  2. Better health channel. Department of Health and Human Services [internet]. State government of Victoria; Emphysema
  3. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Emphysema
  4. National Health Portal [Internet] India; Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  5. Center for Disease Control and Prevention [internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Medicines for Emphysema

Medicines listed below are available for Emphysema. Please note that you should not take any medicines without doctor consultation. Taking any medicine without doctor's consultation can cause serious problems.

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