Can emphysema be prevented?

Steven V. Gurland, MD
Internal Medicine
The best prevention for the development of emphysema is never to have smoked. The next preventive measure is not to work in coal mines or to have prolonged exposure to  any lung toxins. It is important to spend your time in fresh air or in places that are well ventilated.
In many cases, emphysema can be prevented. Smoking is the number one cause of the disease, which means it can be prevented by simply not smoking. If you already smoke, you may be able to prevent emphysema by quitting and living a healthier lifestyle. A work environment that exposes you to harsh chemicals or dangerous particulate matter should have safety guidelines that are followed meticulously, as this exposure can lead to emphysema. Avoiding a living environment with high levels of air pollution or secondhand smoke can also help prevent the disease. The only cases of emphysema that can't be prevented are those caused by a genetic deficiency of the alpha-1 antitrypsin protein.

Continue Learning about Emphysema


Emphysema is difficulty breathing due to air trapped in the lung, resulting in reduced lung capacity. Smoking is usually the cause, as it damages the linings of the air sacs in the lungs making them close. This leads to areas of t...

rapped air in your lungs. Other causes may include coal dust and other pollutants. Your lungs enlarge to compensate, but there are limits to this. Treatment may be medical and include oxygen support, medication and respiratory therapy. Of course stopping smoking is always recommended. Surgical treatment by cutting out damaged portions of the lungs and reducing lung volume is also effective.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.