BIOPHOTO ASSOCIATES / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY BIOPHOTO ASSOCIATES / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Emphysema and normal lung tissue, light micrograph. In normal lung tissue (left), there are lots of small air spaces (alveoli). In the lung of a patient with emphysema, the walls of the alveoli have broken down, making the spaces much larger. The capillaries that transport blood through the lungs are also damaged, and small airways can collapse. This means that the lungs are less efficient at gaseous exchange, leading to shortness of breath and hyperventilation to compensate. The disease is mainly found in long-term smokers, almost always in combination with chronic bronchitis. This is termed a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). There is no cure and the condition is irreversible. Treatment is aimed at preventing further damage.
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