Emphysema is a chronic condition caused by smoking cigarettes. It is also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and was recently dubbed as COLD, chronic obstructive lung disease. This disease is caused by exposure to toxic chemicals, like that located in tobacco and cigarettes; it usually occurs after a long time of exposure to cigarette smoke. When emphysema occurs, there is a loss of elasticity in the lung tissue, causing it destruction in the structures that support the alveoli. The capillaries are also destroyed, which feed the alveoli. The small airways then collapse in on themselves during exhalation. This then causes air to become trapped in the lungs. Those with emphysema will then experience a shortness of breath when a lot of exertion is enforced. Later on, shortness of breath will occur even while resting.

Smokers who have mild emphysema are called pink puffers because they maintain adequate blood oxygen levels by hyperventilating. Those who suffer from chronic bronchitis, another form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, are called blue bloaters because they have inadequate oxygen (known as cyanosis). This is due to an almost normal ventilatory drive caused by lowered sensitivity to carbon dioxide secondary to chronic hypercapnia.

Stages of Emphysema

During emphysema, the air sacs in your lungs are damaged, making it hard to catch your breath. Once you are diagnosed with emphysema, you should quit smoking right away. Many people who have emphysema don't quit smoking; the disorder can develop into the disease. By not smoking can help keep it from getting worse.

Treatments for emphysema vary depending on which are type of the disorder you have (mild, moderate or severe). Some of the treatments for emphysema available are inhalers, oxygen, medications and sometimes surgery that help with symptom relief and prevents further complications. Emphysema also reduces the amount of physical activity you are able to do. Too much exertion can create asthma attacks and extreme shortness of breath. After a long period of time of living with emphysema, it will take a lot of hard work to expel air from your lungs. What used to be so simple - breathing - is no longer easy. Catching your breath alone will use up lots of energy, making it difficult to do anything else in your life.

Later Stages

You may have to carry around an oxygen tank at the early stages of your 40s or 50s depending on when you are diagnosed with chronic emphysema. There is no cure for emphysema, only methods to help reduce discomforts and complications. The best of your treatments would provide relief to your daily life, but there is no way to cure your lungs. Symptoms of emphysema include chronic, mild coughing, loss of appetite and weight loss; and fatigue.

The chronic, mild cough is uncommon with emphysema, but when it does occur, it is usually non-productive, meaning you don't cough up a lot of mucus and phlegm. If you happen to have productive chronic cough, it is possible that you have bronchitis. The lack of eating caused by the disorder can cause weight loss.