ZEPHYR / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY ZEPHYR / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Emphysema. X-ray of the right lung of a patient with bullous emphysema. There is a large area of trapped air (black) at the top of the lung. Emphysema causes the tiny air sacs of the lungs to become damaged, leading to the walls between them breaking down. This causes large areas of trapped air and leads to a smaller surface area for gaseous exchange, restricting oxygen uptake by the blood. Enlarged air spaces bigger than 1 centimetre in diameter are known as bullae. The lung tissue in these areas may be completely destroyed. The main cause of emphysema is cigarette smoking. Symptoms include a cough and shortness of breath. Bullae may be surgically removed, although there is no cure for emphysema.
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