The Lungs, Emphysema, Treatment
Emphysema is an incurable lung disease that results in the destruction of air sacs in the lungs. It is brought about almost exclusively by smoking. In the past, the majority of its victims were male, but the disease has become more common in women as more women smoke.
Emphysema is also called chronic obstructive pulmonary (or lung) disease (COPD or COLD). Chronic bronchitis, that is, inflammation of the air tubes leading into the lungs, is closely associated with the development of emphysema. Some medical authorities consider emphysema and bronchitis to be the same disease.
Although emphysema is closely linked to smoking, a few patients—less than 1% of all cases—have a genetic lack of an enzyme, called alpha-1-antitrypsin, that leads to the development of the disease. Alpha-1-antitrypsin normally protects the elastic fibers in the walls of the small air sacs in the lungs. If the enzyme is not present, the air sacs are vulnerable to damage by cigarette smoke, chemical fumes, dust, and other substances that are inhaled.
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