Emphysema: Glossary

Here are definitions of medical terms related to emphysema.

Alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT): A protein produced in the liver that blocks the destructive effects of certain enzymes.

Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AAT deficiency): A deficiency of a protein produced in the liver that blocks the destructive effects of certain enzymes. This inherited condition is associated with emphysema and liver disease.

Alpha-1 proteinase inhibitor: A drug that acts by inhibiting the destructive effects of certain enzymes in the lungs.

Alveoli: Tiny sac-like airspaces in the lungs, resembling a bunch of grapes, where carbon dioxide from the body is exchanged for oxygen from outside the body.

Anti-cholinergic: An agent that opposes or blocks the action of acetylcholine, a protein that is active in the transmission of nerve impulses. In emphysema, anti-cholinergic drugs act to relax the bronchi.

Arterial blood gas (ABG): A test in which blood taken from an artery is analyzed for amounts of carbon dioxide and oxygen.

Beta2 agonists: Drugs that act to relax the muscles surrounding the bronchi, thus opening the airways.

Bronchial tubes, bronchi : Larger air passages in the lung, usually closer to the throat.

Bronchioles: The smallest tubular airways in the lungs. They branch off the larger bronchi and are joined to the alveoli (tiny sac-like airspaces in the lungs where cardon dioxide from the body is exchanged for oxygen from outside the body).

Bronchodilator: A drug that relaxes bronchial muscles, allowing the bronchial air passages to expand.

Chronic bronchitis: A disease of the lungs characterized by changes in structure of the airways of the lungs, inflammation, and enlargement of the mucous glands. Coughing and sputum (phlegm) production are common symptoms. Chronic bronchitis often develops simultaneously with emphysema.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: Any of a group of irreversible conditions (which variably include bronchitis, emphysema, and bronchospasm) that cause air to become trapped in the lung and limit the ability to exhale.

Collagen: An insoluble, fibrous protein that is the main component of connective tissues in the body.

Computed tomography (CT) scan: A computerized view of the body that creates images of soft tissue.

Congenital: Existing at birth.

Contraction of the heart: The shortening or thickening of the fibers in heart muscle causing the pumping action of the heart.

Cor pulmonale (right-sided heart failure): A disease of the heart characterized by enlargement of the right ventricle.

Corticosteroid: An adrenal-cortex steroid used to control inflammation. These include cortisone, fluticasone, beclomethasone, mometasone, and prednisone. Steroids are the body’s chemical messengers.

Cyanosis: The bluish color of the skin, nail beds, and mucous membranes associated with too little oxygen in the body.

Diaphragm: The muscle that separates the chest and abdominal cavity. It is the primary muscle used in breathing.

Diuretic: A substance that increases urine output.

Dyspnea: Shortness of breath or hard, labored breathing.

Edema: The swelling that results from excess accumulation of fluid in connective tissue or membrane-lined cavities of the body.

Elastin: A protein similar to collagen that is the main component of elastic fibers in the body. Collagen is a protein that is the main component of the body’s connective tissues.

Hypoxemia: Low levels of oxygen in the blood.

Lung reduction: A surgical procedure in which dead or damaged lung tissue is cut away, leaving room for healthy lung tissue to expand.

Macrophage: A “white blood cell” or phagocytic cell that helps to protect the body against infections and harmful substances.

Metered-dose inhaler(MDI): A device that contains pre-measured doses of medication that is inhaled directly into the lungs.

Mucus: Sticky phlegm or liquid in the respiratory tract.

Nasal flaring: An enlargement of the nostrils during breathing. Nasal flaring can indicate that increased work is required for breathing.

Osteoporosis: A condition marked by decreased bone mass, causing the bones to become porous and fragile. Osteoporosis is most commonly seen in older (postmenopausal) women and may be increased by use of corticosteroids.

Sputum: A secretion that is produced in the lungs and the bronchi (tubes that carry the air to the lung). Sputum is the substance that is expelled with deep coughing.

Spirometry: A test performed by breathing into an instrument called a spirometer, which records the amount and rate of air that is inhaled and exhaled. Some of the test measurements are obtained by normal breathing, and other tests require forced inhalation and/or exhalation.

Wheezing: Whistling sound heard when someone breathes out or in.

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