The main cause of emphysema is smoking – including passive smoking, that is, breathing in other people’s smoke. It is absolutely essential that patients with emphysema quit smoking in order to improve their quality of life.

Another cause of emphysema, which accounts for approximately 1 to 2% of cases, is deficiency of a protein known as alpha 1-antitrypsin. Alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency is an inherited genetic disorder.