emphysema ĕmfĭsē´mə [key], pathological or physiological enlargement or overdistention of the air sacs of the lungs. A major cause of pulmonary insufficiency in chronic cigarette smokers, emphysema is a progressive disease that commonly occurs in conjunction with chronic bronchitis. It is found predominantly in people over age 45, but a genetically based early-onset form also exists. Symptoms are difficulty in breathing, cough with thick sticky sputum, and a bluish tinge of the skin. Progressive disease can result in disability, and in severe cases heart or respiratory failure and death.
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