Emphysema is a disease that affects the lungs. It is a long term disease. It causes shortness of breath. It occurs when the tissue in your lungs are damaged or destroyed.

Emphysema is included in a group of diseases called COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). Pulmonary refers to your lungs.

Emphysema does not develop suddenly. It comes on very gradually. Years of exposure to the irritation of cigarette smoke usually come before the development of emphysema. Of the estimated 3.7 million Americans diagnosed with emphysema, 94 percent are 45 or older.

Men have been more likely than women to receive a diagnosis of emphysema. However, in 2008 more women reported a diagnosis of emphysema than men according to the American Lung Association.

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