Emphysema is a long-term, progressive disease of the lungs that primarily causes shortness of breath. In people with emphysema, the tissues necessary to support the physical shape and function of the lungs are destroyed. It is included in a group of diseases called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD (pulmonary refers to the lungs). Emphysema is called an obstructive lung disease because the destruction of lung tissue around smaller sacs, called alveoli, makes these air sacs unable to hold their functional shape upon exhalation. It is often caused by long-term exposure to air pollution or smoking.

The term emphysema means swelling and comes from the Greek ἐμφυσᾶν emphysan meaning inflate, itself composed of ἐν en meaning in and φυσᾶν physan meaning breath, blast.

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