Emphysema is more than just a word which is what it was for me before I got diagnosed so I thought you all would like this article: Emphysema is a lung condition in which tiny air sacs in the lungs - alveoli - fill up with air. As the air continues to build up in these sacs, they expand, and may break or become damaged and form scar tissue. The patient becomes progressively short of breath. Emphysema is a type of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). The main cause of emphysema is long-term regular smoking. The alveoli turn into large, irregular pockets with holes in them. The surface area of the lungs is gradually reduced, resulting in less oxygen entering the bloodstream. The small elastic fibers that hold open the small airways leading to the alveoli also become destroyed. When the patient breathes out they collapse, i.e. the patient has problems exhaling air. Emphysema is not curable, the condition cannot be reversed. However, treatment may slow down its rate of progression and alleviate symptoms. According to Medilexicon's medical dictionary, emphysema is: 1. Presence of air in the interstices of the connective tissue of a part. 2. A condition of the lung characterized by increase beyond the normal in the size of air spaces distal to the terminal bronchiole (those parts containing alveoli), with destructive changes in their walls and reduction in their number. Clinical manifestation is breathlessness on exertion, due to the combined effect (in varying degrees) of reduction of alveolar surface for gas exchange and collapse of smaller airways with trapping of alveolar gas in expiration; this causes the chest to be held in the position of inspiration ("barrel chest"), with prolonged expiration and increased residual volume. Symptoms of chronic bronchitis often, but not necessarily, coexist. Two structural varieties are panlobular (panacinar) emphysema and centrilobular (centriacinar) emphysema; paracicatricial, paraseptal, and bullous emphysema are also common. What are the signs and symptoms of emphysema A symptom is something the patient feels and describes, such as pain, while a sign is something everybody can detect, such as a rash. A patient with emphysema may experience no symptoms for many years. Eventually, as the condition progresses, there is a shortness of breath (dyspnea), which starts off gradually. An individual with early stages of emphysema may avoid physical activity because it makes them pant too much. Eventually, the shortness of breath is present even when the person is resting. Something you should know is that only HALF of those who have it have even been diagnosed and that Doctors often miss the opportunity to test for it. Considering that One out of every Four people in the US will have Emphysema in their lifetime I believe that ALL Smokers and EX Smokers should be tested! Ask your Doctor for a Spirometry Test! It's much better to know than to not know and early diagnosis is a BIG advantage! Advocate for yourself and get tested! Your lungs will appreciate it!