Emphysema is a condition that causes shortness of breath and cough. The major cause of emphysema is smoking - people who smoke and have emphysema should quit. However, some people who have never smoked get emphysema because of a genetic condition.
In people who have emphysema, the air sacs, or alveoli, of the lungs are damaged. This causes the small airways to collapse when air is breathed out, which makes it hard for air to flow into the lungs and even harder for it to flow out.
Smoking is the main cause of emphysema, so quitting smoking is the most important step in easing the symptoms. Help is available via Quitline on 13 78 48.
The condition is one of several which grouped together are known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is one of the most common causes of death in Australia.
There are many treatments available, including medicines, lung exercises and, for some people, surgery. It is also wise to avoid pollution and other people’s smoke.
Quitting smoking is the only treatment known to slow the worsening of emphysema symptoms.
Are you a carer or helping someone out?
Carers are everyday people who provide unpaid and ongoing care and support to someone they know who has disability, mental illness, drug or alcohol dependancy, a chronic condition, terminal illness or who is frail.
Support for carers
Last reviewed: November 2016