Emphysema is a chronic, debilitating lung disease that is the result of damage to the air spaces (sacs) in the lung. This damage is usually the result of breathing harmful particles and gases that irritate the lung tissues and destroy the cells of the lung. Emphysema is one category of chronic lung disorders, which also includes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and chronic bronchitis (which is not acute bronchitis).
The most common symptoms of emphysema are:
- Shortness of breath
- Chronic cough
- Coughing up phlegm (mucus)
- Fatigue and reduced tolerance for exercise
- Weight loss
The symptoms of emphysema do not occur acutely (quick onset). They develop slowly over time due to the chronic nature of the disease. If you have an acute onset of shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain, or fever, see your doctor.
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UpToDate. Patient information: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema (Beyond the Basics).