Natural Health Nexis
This nhn Emphysema Guide includes information about Emphysema that is written primarily to help Emphysema Patients better understand their condition and the range of Emphysema treatment options that are currently available:
The act of inhalation causes air to travel to the lungs via the trachea, bronchi, and bronchioles. Cedars Sinai Medical Center explains that, located at the end of the bronchioles in each lung, there are about 300 million alveoli. These alveoli are very small clustered air sacs with very thin elastic walls that stretch upon inhalation to allow interchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the lungs and the bloodstream. They then retract upon exhalation, to help the lungs efficiently expel carbon dioxide-rich air from the body.
Emphysema occurs when these delicate alveoli walls become inflamed by irritants. Over time they lose their natural elasticity, overexpand, and lose their normal ability to contract. Trapped air causes many of them to rupture and combine, reducing the total surface area available for gaseous exchange, and preventing full exhalation. This makes it harder for the Emphysema patient to breathe.
The Mayo Clinic states that Emphysema is usually caused by long-term exposure "of the alveoli, to inhaled irritants, including:
In the US, cigarette smoking is recognized as the most common cause of Emphysema, accounting for ~80% of all cases. However, inhalation of any type of tobacco smoke (Cigars, Pipes...), or Marijuana smoke, can cause Emphysema. Inhalation of airborne smoke from other people smoking (second-hand smoking) can also cause Emphysema.
Smoke damages the millions of tiny hairs in the bronchial tubes known as Cilia, which normally sweep irritants and germs out of the air passages. When the cilia are damaged, and the air passages are not swept clean, they become inflamed and their elastic fibers degrade.
Emphysema may also be contracted by patients who have experienced long-term exposure to essentially any airborne irritants of the respiratory pathways, either occupationally or in the domestic environment. Since these same irritants that affect the alveoli can also irritate and damage the bronchi and bronchioles, it is usually found that Emphysema patients also suffer from Chronic Bronchitis.
Both Emphysema and Chronic Bronchitis are now usually referred to as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
An inherited genetic disorder known as Alpha-1 AntiTrypsin (A1AT) Deficiency is also statistically associated with the occurrence of Emphysema. A1AT is a protein that helps protect the elastic structure of the lungs in most people, and it seems that the combination of reduced levels of A1AT and exposure to smoke or other lung irritants can cause aggressively worsening symptoms of Emphysema.
See also COPD Causes.
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