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Emphysema is a medical condition that manifests itself by affecting the individual's respiratory system, leading to shortness of breath. This shortness of breath may occur often, or even be a full chronic condition with the affected patient constantly gasping for air, as if not being able to inhale a full dose of oxygen. The cause for this disease is related to the deterioration of specific lung tissue supporting the transport of oxygen to the lung alveoli. The lung alveoli are mainly responsible for gas-exchange in the organism, with the carbon dioxide being filtered out and oxygen being filtered into one's blood stream through the process of cell diffusion. In the case of emphysema, the mechanism and tissue responsible for the delivery of oxygen to the alveoli becomes compromised, leading to low concentration of oxygen in one's bloodstream and a higher concentration of carbon dioxide.

The condition is considered to be a part of the group of medical disorders known as chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. Furthermore, there are several subtypes of emphysema, with the most common being the panacinar, and the centracinar emphysemas. The two types are differentiated by the type and way in which lung structures are affected, with the first type causing an enlargement of the air spaces in the lung acini that contain the alveoli, and the centracinar emphysema being characterized by the enlargement of the lung bronchioles responsible for the initial transfer of oxygen into other portions of one's lungs.

However, all types of emphysema have the same external respiratory symptoms such as inability to take full deep breaths, constantly gasping for air, or rapid breathing referred to as tachypnea. Currently, pulmonary diseases are the third leading cause of deaths in the United States, after heart disease and cancer. Therefore, it is very important to protect oneself from these types of diseases at all cost. As is the case for heart disease, and even cancer, the best way to battle this type of diseases is to begin the fight long before one is ever diagnosed or exhibits any of its related symptoms. In order to prevent emphysema, every individual should abstain from activities that have shown to cause clear and direct damage to one's lungs.

One should abstain or stop smoking any tobacco products, as well as always wear protective masks when using any toxic chemicals that have shown to cause damage the human respiratory system. Furthermore, one should increase the frequency of activities that stimulate the respiratory system such as cardiovascular exercise. One should remember that emphysema is an irreversible condition, and while there are medications and various inhalers available that may ease its symptoms, one will be better served making certain lifestyle changes that greatly decrease the chances of being diagnosed with this disease.