Emphysema: An overview

Emphysema is a chronic and progressive lung disease characterized by damage to the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs. This damage leads to the gradual destruction of the alveoli, resulting in decreased lung function and difficulty breathing. Emphysema is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), often associated with chronic bronchitis.


Smoking: Cigarette smoking is the primary cause of emphysema. The toxins in cigarette smoke cause inflammation and damage to the alveoli over time.

Environmental Factors: Long-term exposure to air pollution, secondhand smoke, or occupational dust and chemicals can increase the risk of developing emphysema.

Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency: A rare genetic condition that leads to a deficiency of a protein called alpha-1 antitrypsin, which normally protects the lungs from damage. Individuals with this deficiency are at higher risk of developing emphysema, especially if they smoke.


Shortness of Breath: Difficulty breathing, especially during physical activity, is a hallmark symptom of emphysema. As the condition progresses, shortness of breath can occur even during rest.

  • Chronic Cough: A persistent cough that may produce mucus (sputum) is common in emphysema.
  • Wheezing: Wheezing or a whistling sound when breathing may occur due to narrowed airways.
  • Chest Tightness: Some individuals with emphysema may experience chest tightness or discomfort.
  • Fatigue: Reduced lung function can lead to fatigue and decreased stamina.


Medical History and Physical Examination: A Best Pulmonologist in Lahore will ask about symptoms, smoking history, and perform a physical exam, including listening to the lungs with a stethoscope.

  • Pulmonary Function Tests (PFTs): These tests measure lung function, including spirometry to assess airflow and lung volume measurements.
  • Imaging Tests: Chest X-rays or computed tomography (CT) scans may be used to visualize the lungs and assess the extent of damage.
  • Blood Tests: Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency can be detected through blood tests.


  • Smoking Cessation: Quitting smoking is essential to slow the progression of emphysema and improve lung function.
  • Medications: Bronchodilators and inhaled corticosteroids can help alleviate symptoms and improve airflow.
  • Oxygen Therapy: Supplemental oxygen may be prescribed for individuals with severe emphysema to improve oxygen levels in the blood.
  • Pulmonary Rehabilitation: A structured program that includes exercise training, education, and support to improve quality of life and manage symptoms.
  • Surgery: In some cases, surgical interventions such as lung volume reduction surgery or lung transplantation may be considered for select individuals with severe emphysema.

Emphysema is a chronic condition that requires ongoing management and support. Early diagnosis and intervention, along with lifestyle modifications such as smoking cessation, can help slow disease progression and improve quality of life for individuals living with emphysema. Refer to a Pulmonologist in Rawalpindi for further help.

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