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Emphysema

emphysemaEmphysema is a lung disease where the air sacs in the lungs are gradually destroyed. It is a major cause of death and disability, affecting three million Americans each year.

Symptoms: Major symptom is shortness of breath that can even occur while at rest. Other symptoms can include chronic cough, frequent respiratory infections, a reduced appetite, weight loss and fatigue.

Risk factors: Smoking, increasing age, exposure to secondhand smoke, occupational toxins, air pollution.

Causes: Smoking (leading cause), long-term exposure to airborne irritants, inherited deficiency (Alpha-1 antitrypsin emphysema).

The following table provides an overview of the major lung disorders: Asthma, Emphysema and COPD

Disorder Definition Occurrence Symptoms Risk Factors Causes Treatments
Asthma Respiratory disease in which airways in the lungs become inflamed and constricted. Nearly 23 million Americans, including seven million children. Attacks cause wheezing, coughing, breathlessness, chest tightness. Symptoms can range from wheezing to lifethreatening attacks! Family medical history, secondhand smoke, air pollution, respiratory childhood infections, low birth weight, being overweight. No proven cause. Attacks are in response to “triggers," which can include pollutants, common allergens, stress, cold air, colds, certain medications. No cure. Can be treated and controlled by avoiding triggers, taking medications as prescribed.
Emphysema Air sacs in the lungs are gradually destroyed. Major cause of death and disability; affects three million Americans. Shortness of breath that causes an interruption in activities and can even occur while at rest. Smoking, increasing age, exposure to secondhand smoke, occupational toxins, air pollution. Smoking (leading cause), long-term exposure to airborne irritants, inherited deficiency (Alpha-1 antitrypsin emphysema). Cannot be cured but treatment may relieve symptoms and slow progression. Managed with healthy lifestyle habits, medications, oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation programs, surgery.
COPD An umbrella term used to describe any long-term, nonreversible damage to the lungs that interferes with normal breathing. In the U.S., chronic bronchitis and emphysema are the two main conditions that make up COPD. Third-leading cause of death and a major cause of disability. 12 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD and another 12 million are thought to have COPD and not know it. Coughing, coughing with mucus, breathlessness, lack of energy, weakness. Smoking, longterm exposure to harmful pollutants, lack of exercise, being overweight, being female, increasing age. Smoking, pollutants, genetic conditions, poor health, lifestyle habits. There is no cure: managed with healthy lifestyle habits,medications, oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation programs, surgery.