What Is It?
Emphysema is a respiratory disease. In this condition, millions of the lungs' tiny air sacs (alveoli) stretch out of shape or rupture. As these thin, fragile air sacs become damaged or destroyed, the lungs lose their natural elasticity. They become unable to empty easily.
Emphysema is a progressive disease, which means it continues to get worse. As the condition progresses, the lungs lose their ability to absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Breathing becomes more difficult. A person feels easily short of breath, like he or she is not getting enough air.
Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the two most common forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). They often occur together. Bronchitis is an inflammation and swelling of the bronchial walls. A person with chronic bronchitis typically has a daily cough with phlegm that lasts for months at a time over several years.