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Abnormal distension of the lungs with air, usually associated with cigarette smoking and chronic bronchitis. Elastic tissue degenerates, severely interfering with exhalation. Capillary walls disappear, leaving lung tissue dry and pale. The walls of the pulmonary alveoli (seepulmonary alveolus) break down, so the lung fills with pools of air. Symptoms include severe breathlessness, weight loss, bluish skin, chest tightness, and wheezing. In bullous emphysema, the alveoli form large air cysts that may rupture, causing lung collapse (seeatelectasis), or require surgery. Emphysema is irreversible; it normally continues to progress even after the cessation of smoking and may lead to death. See alsopulmonary heart disease.
Variants of EMPHYSEMA
emphysema or pulmonary emphysema
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on emphysema, visit Britannica.com.