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What is emphysema?

Emphysema is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) involving damage to the air sacs in the lungs. As a result, your body does not get the oxygen it needs.

Emphysema makes it hard to catch your breath. You may also have a chronic cough and have trouble breathing during exercise.

The most common cause is cigarette smoking. If you smoke, quitting can help prevent you from getting the disease. If you already have emphysema, not smoking might keep it from getting worse.


One of the main symptoms of emphysema is shortness of breath. Symptoms may become severe and interfere with regular daily activities.

Emphysema patients may not be able to perform simple tasks, such as showering or walking on flat surfaces without difficulty. Use of oxygen through a nasal cannula may be required depending on oxygen levels.