Emphysema: Meaning, Diagnosis and Overview

What is Emphysema?

Emphysema is a long-term, progressive disease of the lungs and occurs when the alveolar walls are destroyed along with the capillary blood vessels that run within them. This lessens the total area within the lung where blood and air can come together, limiting the potential for oxygen and carbon dioxide transfer. This causes shortness of breath. 
It is also called as an obstructive lung disease. Emphysema, along with chronic bronchitis, together is referred to as Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease, or COPD.

Recovery Time

Emphysema is a long-term (chronic) illness. This can range from few weeks to several months depending upon the severity of the symptoms. There is no cure for Emphysema at present. The condition must be managed by medication or changes to lifestyle.


Diagnosis is done by taking physical examination and medical history of the patient. Other tests which may be ordered include:
  • Chest X-ray
  • CT (computerized tomography) scan
  • Blood test
  • Lung function tests

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