The normal flow of air in and out of our lungs is what keeps us alive. But if you experience any form of breathing difficulty, it can be a cause of physical and mental stress. Among several medical diseases that affect your respiratory system, one major condition is emphysema, which damages the lungs and makes it difficult to breathe normally.
According to research, emphysema affects around 3 million people in the US, threatening their overall health. By understanding the causes and risk factors of emphysema, you can take the right measures to prevent this disease.
What Is Emphysema?
Emphysema is one of the two common respiratory conditions that fall under chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is a chronic disease that gradually destroys the air sacs in the lungs. As the air sacs or alveoli weaken and rupture, it becomes difficult to breathe normally. It also affects the elasticity of the lungs.
Emphysema is a slowly progressing disease. Once the lung tissues get damaged from this condition, they cannot be repaired. But with the right treatment measures, you can breathe more comfortably and maintain a healthy life.
What Causes Emphysema?
There are several different causes of emphysema that may irritate and destroy your lung tissues. The common contributing factors are:
- Smoking: It is the most prominent cause of emphysema. Prolonged smoking irritates the lung tissues and destroys the air sacs. As a result, you will experience shortness of breath, irregular breathing, and other respiratory symptoms.
- Exposure to irritants: Long-term exposure to industrial irritants, air pollutants, and secondhand smoke can also damage the lung tissues, leading to emphysema.
- Genetics: In rare cases, emphysema may occur due to a genetic disease known as alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. Also, people with a history of childhood respiratory infections may also develop this condition.
What Are The Risk Factors of Emphysema?
The risk of emphysema may increase due to external or internal factors. Common risk factors of this disease include:
- Chronic smoking: Tobacco smokers are particularly at high risk of emphysema, but those who smoke marijuana are also susceptible.
- Age: The risk of emphysema is higher among individuals over the age of 40. This is because the lungs become progressively weaker as you age.
- Passive smoking: People who do not smoke directly but are exposed to tobacco smoke for extended periods of time are also at risk.
- Lung irritants: If you work in an industry that expels chemical irritants or are exposed to air pollutants, your lungs may gradually weaken over time.
- Compromised immune system: Those with a weak immune system due to medical conditions like HIV are more prone to develop emphysema.
Get Early Diagnosis And Treatment For Emphysema
At Internal Medicine Diagnostic Center, we perform diagnostic tests for many respiratory diseases, including emphysema and COPD. If you or a loved one develop signs of emphysema or are at risk, contact us at (281) 252-8600 for an expert consultation.