Emphysema results from the long term effects of smoking. There are many other effects on respiratory health caused by cigarette addiction but emphysema is the end result of all damage to the lungs caused by the inhalation of the smoke and other chemicals that cigarettes contain. It is the cumulative effects of cigarette smoking over a long time period that cause emphysema so the condition is usually seen in older adults.

Even if you have already given up your cigarette addiction there may still be permanent changes in your lungs that can predispose to the development of emphysema at some time in the future. Nobody is immune to the effects of smoking.
Here is the explanation of how your cigarette addiction can cause emphysema.

Normal Lung Anatomy

Lung anatomy includes the presence of tiny structures called cilia in the air passages. The words cilia actually comes from the Latin term for eyelash and indeed lung cilia are fine hair like structures. They are anatomical structures that occur throughout the body and their main function is motility or motion. Cilia are basically responsible for waving around and moving microscopic things through narrow tubes. In the respiratory tract the cilia are literally responsible for sweeping the airways clean. Without cilia, mucous and other debris will build up and clog the air passages.

Effects of Cigarette Smoking

One of the major effects of smoking is the paralysis and destruction of the cilia and this is how emphysema starts.
As the cilia become less and less efficient the mucous in the respiratory tract builds up. Because the cilia are being destroyed, the tar and other chemical debris that cigarettes contain cannot be removed from the lungs. More and more debris and mucus builds up in the lungs setting the stage for infection.

The air passages filled with mucus are a perfect environment for bacteria as they just love dark, warm, moist places to breed and thrive. Over time these effects of smoking continue and you become more and more susceptible to infections. As a result of the infectious process and the constant inflammation in the lungs, certain destructive enzymes are released causing more damage of your delicate lung tissue and further loss of those all important cilia.
At the same time this is happening your tiny air passages are gradually becoming obstructed with mucus and debris from all the chemicals that the cigarettes contain. The normal elastic nature of your lung tissue and the air passages is lost. Air that goes into your lungs cannot be expelled. Over time this trapped air exerts more and more pressure on the tiny air sacs in the lung tissue (called alveoli) until they eventually become stretched out and lose their elasticity. Where once you may have had thousands of these tiny little air sacs now there will only be a few hundred larger ones.

The effects of your cigarette smoking continue and more and more pressure builds up in your lung tissue. More and more damage over time results in loss of elasticity of the air passages as well. Now instead of expanding on inhalation and contracting back to normal size on exhalation your air passages simply collapse trapping more air in the air sacs.
The air contained in those air sacs is full of carbon dioxide and under normal circumstances would be expelled with every exhalation, thus making room for more oxygen rich air to be inhaled. But if your air passages are collapsed because they have lost their elasticity then the carbon dioxide filled air cannot be expelled from your lungs. It stays in there causing more and more pressure and taking up the valuable room needed for oxygen rich air.

You can see that the ultimate effects of smoking on your lungs is suffocation. If you develop emphysema you cannot get enough oxygen rich air into your lungs and eventually you will suffocate in your own carbon dioxide.
Such are the effects of smoking on your lungs over the long term.

There is no cure for emphysema. Treatment of emphysema can never be as effective as prevention and there is no treatment that will reverse the changes to your lungs caused by smoking once the damage has been done. Stopping smoking will however, stop the damage from progressing.

Don't let your respiratory health go up in smoke! If you have a cigarette addition then quit. Now! Your very breath may depend on it.

Author's Bio: 

Explore more smoking facts at www.smoking-facts-and-fiction.com where Beverly OMalley explores the facts on smoking and your health, including signs of drug addiction, cosmetic cigarette smoking effects, and the family smoking facts.