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"What causes emphysema?"

ZocdocAnswersWhat causes emphysema?


My dad has epmhysema which the doctors say looks like it was caused by cigarettes. He has never smoked in his life, but he did share an office for a long time with people who smoked. Could this cause emphysema? What else could have caused it?


Lung disease is a common problem for older adults and a common reason to seek medical advice. The doctors who will be well qualified to discuss this issue in greater detail include his primary care doctor or his pulmonologist. Emphysema is a chronic lung condition in which the tissue of the lungs starts to break down and develops large, dilated areas where normal breath sacs previously were. It can lead to progressive loss of ability to exercise and shortness and breath and can predispose to the need for oxygen therapy and to lung infections. Virtually all cases of emphysema are caused by exposure to tobacco smoke. Although most of these are in people who smoke themselves, there are numerous documented cases of emphysema from second hand tobacco smoke, so this is also the most likely cause in your father's case. Another cause of emphysema, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, is an inherited condition which results in liver disease and emphysema at an much earlier age than smoking-related emphysema. As always the diagnosis and the management of your father's particular condition will require a physical examination by his personal physician. He should stay in regular contact with his primary care doctor and his pulmonologist.

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