Emphysema history and symptoms

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Emphysema occurs as a result of increased compliance of the lung tissue. After a prolonged period, hyperventilation becomes inadequate to maintain high enough oxygen levels in the blood. Symptoms commonly reflect this.


Symptoms include:

Symptoms of Severe Emphysema

  • In extreme cases it could lead to cor pulmonale due the extra work required by the heart to get blood to flow through the lungs which may present as
  • Cyanosis (bluish decolorization usually in the lips and fingers) caused by a lack of oxygen in the blood
  • Patient may have confusion indicating an alteration of mental status.
  • Depression may be seen
  • Decreased fat-free mass, impaired systemic muscle function (systemic manifestation)

The most helpful information in diagnosis of COPD is provided by a combination of the following 3 signs [1]

  • Self-reported smoking history of more than 55 pack-year
  • Wheezing on auscultation
  • Self-reported wheezing.


  1. Qaseem A, Wilt TJ, Weinberger SE, Hanania NA, Criner G, van der Molen T, Marciniuk DD, Denberg T, Schünemann H, Wedzicha W, MacDonald R, Shekelle P (2011). "Diagnosis and management of stable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a clinical practice guideline update from the American College of Physicians, American College of Chest Physicians, American Thoracic Society, and European Respiratory Society". Annals of Internal Medicine. 155 (3): 179–91. doi:10.1059/0003-4819-155-3-201108020-00008. PMID 21810710. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)

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