Emphysema is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, that involves damage to the alveoli in the lungs. Dr. Patel, what can you tell us about emphysema?
Well, Dr. Green, in emphysema, the walls between many of the alveoli are damaged. As a result, the alveoli lose their shape and become floppy. This can cause air to get trapped inside the lungs, which leaves no room for new air to get in. Trapped air can also force the diaphragm, the muscle at the bottom of the lungs, to become displaced, which makes it less able to assist in breathing. For this reason, people with emphysema often feel like they can't take a deep breath.
Damage can also destroy the walls of the alveoli, leading to fewer and larger alveoli instead of many tiny ones. When this happens, the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide exchanged between the alveoli and the capillaries is reduced. As a result, the body doesn't get as much oxygen as it needs.