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Emphysema is a chronic lung disease. It is often caused by exposure to toxic chemicals or long-term exposure to tobacco smoke.

The scientific definition of emphysema says it is "permanent destructive enlargement of the airspaces distal to the terminal bronchioles without obvious fibrosis". So the definite diagnosis is made by a pathologist. However we can easily ascertain clinical diagnosis by history, clinical examination, chest radiography and lung function tests.

Emphysema is commonly associated with chronic bronchitis and as it is rather difficult to delineate "pure" cases of emphysema or chronic bronchitis they are classed together into chronic obstructive lung diseases.

When you breathe, air is drawn in through the bronchial passages and down into the increasingly fine network of tubing in the lungs called the alveoli, which are many thousands of tiny sacs surrounded by capillaries. These absorb the oxygen and transfer it into the blood. When toxins such as smoke are breathed into the lungs, the particles are trapped by the hairs and cannot be exhaled. Instead, they remain in the lungs, clogging up the oxygen exchange mechanism and severely restricting the airflow. This damage causes the symptoms of emphysema.

Emphysema is an irreversible degenerative condition. It is treated by supporting the breathing with bronchodilators and steroid medication, and supplemental oxygen is often required. The only 'cure' for emphysema is a lung transplant, although not many patients are strong enough physically to survive the surgery. The combination of oxygen deprivation and the side-effects of the medications used to treat emphysema cause damage to the kidneys, heart and other bodily organs.\n