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Definition of EMPHYSEMA
: a condition characterized by air-filled expansions of body tissues; specifically: a condition of the lung marked by abnormal enlargement of the alveoli with loss of pulmonary elasticity that is characterized especially by shortness of breath and may lead to impairment of heart action
: a condition characterized by air-filled expansions in interstitial or subcutaneous tissues; specifically: a condition of the lung that is marked by distension and eventual rupture of the alveoli with progressive loss of pulmonary elasticity, that is accompanied by shortness of breath with or without cough, and that may lead to impairment of heart action
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.