What is emphysema?

Emphysema is a chronic condition characterized by severe breathlessness.

In people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema destroys alveoli in the lung, turning them into large pockets or bubbles. This reduces the number of alveoli, which decreases the amount of oxygen reaching the bloodstream as well. In addition, the elastic fibers that keep open the airways leading to the alveoli are gradually destroyed. The airways will then collapse when the person exhales (breathes out), trapping air within the lungs. This makes breathing extremely difficult.

Many people with emphysema have difficulty carrying out very simple activities, such as bathing or showering, putting on their shoes or climbing stairs.