Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
George Schiffman, MD, FCCP
Dr. Schiffman received his B.S. degree with High Honors in biology from Hobart College in 1976. He then moved to Chicago where he studied biochemistry at the University of Illinois, Chicago Circle. He attended Rush Medical College where he received his M.D. degree in 1982 and was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. He completed his Internal Medicine internship and residency at the University of California, Irvine.
In this Article
- Emphysema facts
- Introduction to emphysema
- What is emphysema?
- What are the causes or risk factors for emphysema?
- What are symptoms of emphysema?
- How is emphysema diagnosed?
- Physical examination
- Exams and tests
- What are the stages of emphysema?
- What is the treatment for emphysema?
- Smoking cessation
- Medications for emphysema
- Pulmonary rehabilitation for emphysema
- What is the prognosis and life-expectancy of a person with emphysema?
- COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) FAQs
- Find a local Pulmonologist in your town
What are the causes or risk factors for emphysema?
- The main risk factor for emphysema is smoking, which activates inflammatory cells in the lung. This inflammation causes; 1) swelling within the bronchioles, and 2) activation of enzymes called proteases which attack and destroy lung tissue (the alveolar wall structures). This leads to centriacinar (centri=central+acinus=sac) emphysema, which begins in the bronchioles and gradually spreads peripherally to the far reaches of the lung. There may be a genetic contribution tot he development of emphysema, since not all people who smoke suffer from emphysema.
- There is also an inherited form of emphysema. The relatively rare condition known as alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency is the genetic deficiency of a chemical that protects the lung from damage by proteases. This results in panacinar (pan=widespread+acinus=sac) emphysema, which destroys the alveoli throughout the lung uniformly.
- Emphysema is also a component of aging. As the lungs get older, the elastic properties decrease, and the tensions that develop can result in small areas of emphysema.
Other less common causes of emphysema include:
- Intravenous drug use in which some of the non-drug additives like corn starch can be toxic to lung tissue
- Immune deficiencies in which infections like Pneumocystis carinii can cause inflammatory changes in the lung
- Connective tissue illnesses (Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Marfan syndrome) in which abnormal elastic tissue in the body can cause alveoli to fail
In underdeveloped countries, a common cause of emphysema is indoor air pollution. In these populations, it is very common to have indoor stoves in the kitchen. The smoke from cooking results in the damage to the lungs.
Viewers share their comments
- Submit »
- Submit »
Find out what women really need.