Emphysema; A Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

by Brenda Williams

Posted on Monday 20th of October 2008

Emphysema is a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease affecting the lungs of human beings. It is more often then not caused by exposure to toxic chemicals. Toxic chemicals does include long term exposure to tobacco smoke. Emphysema happens when the elasticity of the lung tissue is lost. This occurs with the destruction of the alveoli and the capillaries feeding the alveoli. The alveoli is a round structure found within the lung that aids in gas exchange with the blood traveling throughout the body. Symptoms of emphysema include shortness of breath when exercising and when resting, an expanded chest and hyperventilation.

Emphysema is an irreversible condition that causes degeneration of the lungs. The only way to slow the development of emphysema in patients is for the patient to quit smoking immediately and to avoid any tobacco smoke at all costs as well as other toxins harmful to the lungs. Emphysema cannot be cured but it can be prevented. To prevent emphysema people should not smoke, should avoid others who smoke as much as possible and should not inhale any toxins harmful to the lungs. The two types of emphysema are primary and secondary. There are ongoing studies that are currently examining the use of tretinoin, found in Retin-A (an acne medicine), as a possible reversal of emphysema. It has been tested on mice. The mice exhibited a return to elasticity of the lungs. Even though these studies are in their infancy, being conducted by the European Respiratory Journal, there is the possibility that a cure could be developed over time.

Emphysema affects thousands of Americans each and every year and the majority of cases are caused by smoking and other toxins affecting the lungs. Some of the most famous cases of emphysema have come from entertainers, novelists and musicians in the United States.

The most recent emphysema related death from the entertainment industry came in 2005 when late night legend Johnny Carson died from the disease. He passed away on January 23, 2005 from respiratory arrest caused by emphysema. Johnny Carson was the longtime host of “The Tonight Show” and one of the most entertaining comedians of his time. Carson was known for his love of the cigarette. He would constantly light up while filming the show. He appeared a couple of times at public shows with members of the Rat Pack.

Another famous case of emphysema was a member of the aforementioned Rat Pack; Dean Martin. Martin, one of the most soothing voices in the music industry of his time, died on December 25, 1995. He died of acute respiratory failure from emphysema. Martin was also a fan of the cigarette. In all of his movies, TV appearances and night club performances, Dino would always have a cigarette in his hand.

Other famous deaths from emphysema are T.S. Eliot, Richard Yates, Vincent Price, William F. Buckley Jr., Boris Karloff and Fyodor Dostoevsky to name a few. Among them are musicians, novelists, comedians, politicians and civilians. Emphysema cannot be cured but it can be easily prevented by not smoking and avoiding toxic chemicals that harm the lungs.

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