Emphysema is a form of chronic obstructive airways disease caused by progressive destruction and scarring of the small air absorbing sacs (alveoli) in the lungs. It is caused by smoking, exposure to other noxious gases, or recurrent attacks of bronchitis or pneumonia. With these irritants the alveoli break down into larger cavities, which are surrounded by scar tissue and have less functional surface area to absorb oxygen. In Australia about 3% of the population develop emphysema, and most of the victims are smokers.
(Last modified: 18th Sep 2014)