Above is a basic video clip explaining emphysema as a form of COPD. Below is an Amercian Lung Association article on emphysema. Many of us have been told that we have early emphysema. We invite you to either post to this thread sharing your story or send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Maybe Joel or one of you can help answer my basic questions. As stated below, emphysema results from the destruction of our alveoloi. The explanations that I keep reading, including this one, make it sound like that except for an extremely small portion of victims who may inherit a specific gene, that the damage to our alveoloi is caused by external substances that enter the lung and eventually lead to permanent damage. My questions are: (1) Is emphysema a true disease in the traditional sense; and, (2) although the alveoli once destroyed can't repair themselves, does additional harm and damage immediately cease once we quit smoking?
From the American Lung Association
What Is Emphysema?
Early symptoms of emphysema include shortness of breath and cough.
How Serious Is Emphysema?
It is estimated that 50,000 to 100,000 Americans living today were born with a deficiency of a protein known as alpha 1-antitrypsin (AAT) which can lead to an inherited form of emphysema.
Emphysema ranks 15th among chronic conditions that contribute to activity limitations: over 43 percent of individuals with emphysema report that their daily activities have been limited by the disease.
Many of the people with emphysema are older men, but the condition is increasing among women. Males with emphysema outnumber females by 22 percent.
Causes Of Emphysema
When the chemical balance is altered, the lungs lose the ability to protect themselves against the destruction of these elastic fibers. This is what happens in emphysema.
There are a number of reasons this chemical imbalance occurs. Smoking is responsible for 82 percent of chronic lung disease, including emphysema. Exposure to air pollution is one suspected cause. Irritating fumes and dusts on the job also are thought to be a factor.
A small number of people with emphysema have a rare inherited form of the disease called alpha 1-antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency-related emphysema, or early onset emphysema. This form of disease is caused by an inherited lack of a protective protein called alpha 1-antitrypsin (AAT).
How Does Emphysema Develop?
As air sacs are destroyed, the lungs are able to transfer less and less oxygen to the bloodstream, causing shortness of breath. The lungs also lose their elasticity. The patient experiences great difficulty exhaling.
Emphysema doesn't develop suddenly, it comes on very gradually. Years of exposure to the irritation of cigarette smoke usually precede the development of emphysema.
A person may initially visit the doctor because he or she has begun to feel short of breath during activity or exercise. As the disease progresses, a brief walk can be enough to bring on difficulty in breathing. Some people may have had chronic bronchitis before developing emphysema.
Treatment For Emphysema
*The term "pulmonary" refers to the lungs.
Researchers know that quitting smoking can prevent the occurrence and decrease the progression of emphysema. Other environmental controls can also help prevent the disease.
COPD: A Growing Problem
Today, chronic bronchitis and emphysema combined constitute the most common chronic lung disease, affecting 15.8 million people in the U.S.
The number of lives claimed by chronic lung disease has increased sharply, too. In 1979, it accounted for about 50,000 deaths. In 1982, the number rose to 59,000 and by 1992, the number of deaths reached 86,974.