What causes emphysema?

Smoking is by far the most common cause of emphysema. Cigarettes are filled with dangerous chemicals that destroy tiny air sacs in your lungs called alveoli. When your alveoli get damaged, your airways, or bronchioles, may collapse, making it incredibly difficult to breathe. Emphysema can also be caused by secondhand smoke and harsh environmental conditions, like air pollution. Much less commonly, emphysema may be the result of a protein deficiency. The specific protein is called alpha-1 antitrypsin, and its job is to prevent a certain enzyme in your body from destroying your alveoli. If you don't have enough of it, you may develop emphysema.

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.