Sabine Schrör

Sabine Schrör is a freelance author of lifelikeinc.com. She studied Business Administration and Public Relations in Cologne. As a freelance editor, she has been at home in various industries for more than 15 years. Health is one of her favorite topics.

More about the lifelikeinc.com experts at one emphysema the alveoli are partially overstretched and destroyed. The result is that the body can no longer be sufficiently supplied with oxygen. Typical symptoms of emphysema include shortness of breath, shortness of breath and decreased performance. Smoking is the main cause of pulmonary hyperinflation. What other causes are there, what the consequences of pulmonary emphysema are and what the treatment and prognosis look like, read here!

ICD codes for this disease: ICD codes are internationally valid medical diagnosis codes. They are found e.g. in medical reports or on incapacity certificates. J44J43ArtikelübersichtLungenemphysem

  • Knowledge & causes
  • symptoms
  • treatment
  • Examinations and diagnosis
  • Disease course and prognosis

Quick Tour

  • What is pulmonary emphysema? Chronic lung disease associated with hyperinflation and destruction of alveoli. As a result, the body gets less and less oxygenated.
  • Causes: Smoking, chronic inflammatory processes (chronic bronchitis, COPD etc.), alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, older age, inhalation of pollutants (dust, gases etc.), scarring in the lung tissue
  • symptoms: Shortness of breath (first only with physical exertion, later also at rest), coughing, reduced efficiency, increased susceptibility to infection. In the advanced stage also blue lips and nails (cyanosis), barrel-shaped chest (Fassthorax), poor general condition with muscle loss, right heart failure (form of heart failure).
  • investigations: Initial interview (anamnesis), physical examination, X-ray, computed tomography, blood gas analysis, pulmonary function test
  • Treatment: Stop smoking, respiratory training, inhalation of saline, adequate fluid intake, drug therapy, in advanced emphysema, possibly long-term oxygen therapy, surgery. In very severe cases lung transplantation. Vaccinations against pneumococci and influenza viruses due to higher susceptibility to infections useful, treatment of acute respiratory infections with antibiotics.
  • Forecast: No cure possible. Consistent treatment (especially smoking cessation) can slow down or stop the progression of the disease. Possible complications include pneumothorax (collapsed lung), right heart failure with water retention in the legs (edema), jammed neck veins, cirrhosis of the liver.
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Pulmonary emphysema: knowledge & causes

In pulmonary emphysema, more and more alveoli are pathologically over-inflated and destroyed. That's why doctors also speak of one hyperinflation.

The alveoli are the smallest structural units of the lung and surrounded by a dense network of finest blood vessels (capillaries). Here, the gas exchange takes place: With every breath, air flows through the trachea into the alveoli. There, the oxygen from the air passes through the walls of the alveoli into the blood. At the same time carbon monoxide (CO2) is released from the blood to the air in the alveoli. This used air is then exhaled.

In pulmonary emphysema, the gas exchange is not working properly: For those affected The walls of the alveoli lose elasticity, Through the air flowing in with every breath the alveoli become overstretched, Finally, they can even burst, Neighboring destroyed alveoli then unite to bigger bubblesthat coincide when you exhale. Due to the hyperinflation of the alveoli, the smallest bronchi (bronchioles) are narrowed and also fall slightly together. Alltogether makes exhaling difficult: Patients can no longer exhale the inhaled air completely. Part of it remains in the remaining vesicles so that there is less room for new, oxygen-rich air during inhalation. An increasing Undersupply of oxygen is the result.

This happens with pulmonary emphysemaIn pulmonary emphysema, the wall structure of the alveoli is irrevocably destroyed. This leads to a bag-shaped extension of the airspaces.

Pulmonary emphysema: causes

In the developmental mechanism of pulmonary emphysema, certain proteins usually play a decisive role:

With every inhalation, air and pathogens and other harmful substances enter the lungs. The immune system is usually armed against it: defense cells in the alveoli release regularly protein-degrading proteins, so-called proteases, They can destroy infiltrated germs and foreign substances. However, proteases do not distinguish between foreign and own tissue. They can therefore also attack and break down the sensitive lung tissue (more precisely, the elastic fibers in the walls of the alveoli). In order for this does not happen, usually a reasonable amount of protective proteins are released, the so-called Protease inhibitors, Their most important representative is Alpha-1 antitrypsin.

The balance between proteases and protease inhibitors may be due Smoke, chronic inflammatory processes as well as one Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency be disturbed so that increasingly lung tissue is broken down and pulmonary emphysema arises. Other possible causes are the repeated ones Inhalation of pollutants, higher age and scar tissue in the lungs.


Smoking is the most common cause of emphysema. It inhibits protective protease inhibitors (such as alpha-1-antitrypsin). Thus, they can not prevent the attack of the proteases on the alveoli - pulmonary emphysema develops.