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Quebec Lung Association / Quebec Respiratory Health Foundation

COPD, chronic bronchitis and emphysema

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Emphysema is a chronic (long-term) lung disease that can get worse over time. It's usually caused by smoking. Having emphysema means some of the air sacs in your lungs are damaged, making it hard to breathe.

Emphysema is part of a lung disease known as COPD.

We offer lots of information on COPD.

1. Healthy alveolus 2. Alveolus with emphysema
1. Healthy alveolus
2. Alveolus with emphysema

What causes emphysema?

Emphysema can be caused by one or a combination of these things:

Signs and symptoms of emphysema

People might think that feeling short of breath is a normal sign of aging- but it's not. If you have these signs and symptoms, see your doctor. Ask for spirometry, a simple test that measures how much air you move out of your lungs.

These signs and symptoms will not go away over time- they will get worse. The sooner you see the doctor, the sooner you can find out how to feel better.

Learn more about the signs and symptoms of emphysema, now called COPD.

How is emphysema diagnosed?

To figure out if you have emphysema, your doctor many do some of these tests:

Read more about tests to diagnose emphysema (COPD).

Treatment for emphysema

There is no cure for emphysema, but it is possible to slow down the disease and make it easier to live with the symptoms.

Some treatments for emphysema:


Read more about treatment for COPD (including emphysema).

What can I expect with emphysema?

People with emphysema can live for a long time after they are diagnosed. If you have emphysema, how long you'll live depends on many things:

People with emphysema eventually die from it, or from a complication of it.

Complications of emphysema:

If you have emphysema and you smoke, it's important to quit smoking. See your doctor to get proper treatment, so that you'll live as long and as comfortable a life as possible. Lots of people with emphysema/COPD find ways to enjoy a happy and productive life despite their disease.

It's also important to talk to your doctor and family about what kind of care you will need in future years, and what you can do now to get ready for the future.

Why quitting smoking helps improve emphysema symptoms

Emphysema gets worse over time if you continue to smoke or breathe dirty air. The damage doesn't stop until you stop smoking and stop breathing dirty air. By quitting smoking now, you can't undo the damage that's already done, but you can protect your lungs from any more damage.

Where can I get more information, help and support?

If you or someone you love has COPD (emphysema), you can get free, confidential advice and support through our BreathWorks COPD helpline. A nurse or respiratory therapist with expert knowledge of COPD (emphysema) will answer your questions.

Services provided by the Quebec Lung Association

The Quebec Lung Association offers toll-free telephone assistance, provided by healthcare professionals, to help people with lung diseases and their cargivers, and to answer their questions. This service is available Monday to Thursday, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Fridays, from 8:00 a.m. till noon.

The Quebec Lung Association also gives you access to extensive literature in English an French including guides and folders. Contact us for more information:

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Last updated on February 11, 2016

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