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Emphysema & Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Support Forum
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Emphysema / COPD / Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease / Chronic Bronchitis

"COPD is a disease characterized by a progressive airflow limitations caused by an abnormal inflammatory reaction to the chronic inhalation of particles. (...) From a review of data from all over the world, it is clear that tobacco is not the only cause of COPD." (Romain A. Pauwels, MD, PhD, FCCP, "National and International Guidelines for COPD," Chest, 117/2/Feb. 2000 Supplement)

"Although COPD is a leading cause of illness and death, its recognition as a public health problem has been slow to evolve despite the rising mortality rate for COPD and the decline in death rates for most of the cardiovascular diseases. For example, between 1966 and 1995, the age-adjusted death rates for coronary heart disease and stroke declined by 45% and 58%, respectively, whereas the death rate for COPD increased by 71%!" (Suzanne Hurd, PhD, "The Impact of COPD on Lung Health Worldwide," Chest, 117/2/Feb. 2000 Supplement)

"COPD is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide and imparts substantial economic burden on individuals and society. Despite the intense interest in COPD among clinicians and researchers, there is a paucity of data on health-care utilization, costs, and social burden in its population. The total economic costs of COPD morbidity and mortality in the United States were estimated at $23.9 billion in 1993. Direct treatments for COPD-related illness accounted for $14.7 billion, and the remaining $9.2 billion were indirect morbidity and premature mortality estimated at lost future earnings. Similar data from another US study suggest that 10% of persons with COPD account for > 70% of all medical care costs. International studies of trends in COPD-related hospitalization indicate that (...) admissions per 1,000 persons per year for COPD have increased in all age groups > 45 years of age. These trends reflect population aging, smoking patterns, institutional factors, and treatment practices.(Chest, 2000; 112:5S-9S)

When you have emphysema, some of the air sacs deep in your lungs have been damaged because of irritation.

When the bronchi become irritated, the normal elasticity of the air sacs and the walls of the airways are destroyed. People with emphysema need to forcefully blow the air out in order to empty the lungs. Forcing the air out in this way puts pressure on the airways from the outside, compresses them and causes them to collapse. The walls of the tiny air sacs may even tear. Excessive coughing may cause the airways to collapse as well.

As the stretching and tearing of the walls of the air sacs continues, the lungs may become enlarged and less efficient at moving air into the lungs and contaminants out of the lungs.

Because the walls of the air sacs are destroyed, there is less surface area available for gas exchange. Damage to the air sacs in the lungs not only results in difficulty breathing, but the heart also has to work harder to circulate blood through the lungs. All these changes make less oxygen available to the body.

Emphysema is characterized by a large barrel-shaped chest, a poor air pumping system, and shortness of breath (SOB). In advanced stages, every breath is difficult. A cough may or may not be present with emphysema.

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