Emphysema is a long-term (chronic), irreversible lung disease that occurs when the tiny air sacs in the lungs are damaged, usually as a result of long-term smoking. It causes difficulty breathing and shortness of breath that gets worse over time.

Emphysema is a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

A rare type of emphysema is caused by the lack of a substance in the lungs called alpha1-antitrypsin. This type of emphysema is usually inherited.

Current as of: August 21, 2015

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Ken Y. Yoneda, MD - Pulmonology