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Signs and Symptoms of Emphysema

Emphysema belongs to the group of lung diseases collectively known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Emphysema is a long-term, progressive disease which has no cure, and is primarily caused by exposure to airborne toxins, usually smoking and air pollution. In emphysema, the tissue supporting the shape and function of the lungs is destroyed, resulting in shortness of breath. We have put together a list of common signs and symptoms of emphysema below.

The Signs and Symptoms of Emphysema are as follows:

  • Shortness of breath, at first only during physical activity, and then after physical exertion, and lastly even when resting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid breath
  • Inability to talk due to shortness of breath
  • Difficulty coughing
  • Weight loss
  • Bluish-purplish discoloration of the skin
  • Lowered amounts of sputum
  • Lack of mental alertness

The main causes of emphysema is long-term exposure to air pollutants, including tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke, air pollution, chemical fumes and exposure to silica and coal dust. In rare cases, emphysema is caused by an inherited deficiency of a protein called Alpha-1 antitrypsin. Some signs and symptoms of emphysema are a normal part of aging, and are found in the elderly whose lungs have deteriorated due to age.

Diagnosis of Emphysema

Lung function tests such as a spirometer measure how much air your lungs can hold and how well your lungs can deliver oxygen to the bloodstream. A chest x-ray can help confirm the diagnosis of advanced emphysema. A DLCO is a test which measures the inflow of oxygen and outflow of carbon dioxide across the alveolar capillary membrane. A DLCO differentiates emphysema from other chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases such as chronic bronchitis and asthma. In emphysema, the DLCO will be decreased, whereas in asthma and chronic bronchitis, it will be normal or increased.

Books For People With Signs and Symptoms of Emphysema

Natural Therapies for Emphysema and COPD: Relief and Healing for Chronic Pulmonary Disorders
Robert J. Green Jr.
The Chronic Bronchitis and Emphysema Handbook
François Haas

Medifocus Guidebook on: Emphysema
Breathe Out: Living Life to the Fullest, with Emphysema, COPD, or Smoker’s Lung
Mary Callahan

Emphysema Resources

General Patient Resources

  • Emphysema . org

Learn About Emphysema with the Experts’ Guide to Better Breathing.

  • National Emphysema Foundation

National Emphysema Foundation aims to improve the quality of life of patients with emphysema, chronic obstructive lung disease, asthma and related lung diseases with information and education. National Emphysema Foundation supports research and works with many physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists who are involved in direct patient care.

  • About . com

Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention of Emphysema.

  • Better Medicine

Information Including Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Causes, Videos, Forums, and local community support. Find answers to health issues you can trust.

  • E Med TV

Emphysema is a lung disease that is often caused by smoking cigarettes. This selection from the eMedTV Web site takes an in-depth look at this condition.

  • Daily Strength

Emphysema and COPD support group.

  • MD Junction

Emphysema Forums. Discussions, Q&A and friends dealing with Emphysema.

  • Med Help

The Archives of Emphysema Questions: Collection of patient medical questions and answers about emphysema which are replied to by online doctors from leading medical institutions.


Healthline provides a very comprehensive overview of COPD as a critical
starting point for individuals and/or their loved ones.

Medical Resources

  • Mayo Clinic

Comprehensive overview covers symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention of this serious lung disorder.

  • Web MD

Emphysema is a disease of the lungs that can have a negative impact on breathing. WebMD explains what happens and what causes it.