Emphysema (Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease - COPD)

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Emphysema, also known as chronic obstructive lung (pulmonary) disease, or COPD, refers to a group of diseases characterized by narrow, obstructed, or destroyed airways within the lungs. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, in 2003, nearly 11 million adults were afflicted with COPD.

Emphysema is one type of COPD. In emphysema, air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs are damaged. The damage results in permanent "holes" in the lung tissue. These holes trap air in the lungs, and also cause the lung tissue to become less elastic and distended, like an overused rubber band.

The pressure from the distended areas of the lung compresses the nearby healthy lung tissue. This makes it difficult to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide when exhaling.

Symptoms of emphysema include cough, shortness of breath, and difficulty tolerating exercise. As the disease progresses, patients with emphysema may require supplemental oxygen and eventually rely on mechanical respiratory assistance. Severe emphysema can lead to respiratory failure and death. 
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