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Risk Factors of Emphysema
What are the Risk Factors of Emphysema?
The single greatest risk factor for emphysema is smoking. Emphysema is most likely to develop in cigarette smokers, but cigar and pipe smokers also are susceptible, and the risk for all types of smokers increases with the number of years and amount of tobacco smoked. Men are affected more often than women are, but this statistic is changing as more women take up smoking. Second-hand smoke can also cause emphysema and lung disease.
Other risk factors include:
- Age. Although the lung damage that occurs in emphysema develops gradually over time, most people with tobacco-related emphysema begin to experience symptoms of the disease between the ages of 50 and 60.
- Exposure to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke, also known as passive or environmental tobacco smoke, is smoke that you inadvertently inhale from someone else's cigarette, pipe or cigar.
- Occupational exposure to chemical fumes. If you breathe fumes from certain chemicals or dust from grain, cotton, wood or mining products, you're more likely to develop emphysema. The risk is even greater if you smoke.
- Exposure to indoor and outdoor pollution. Breathing indoor pollutants such as fumes from heating fuel as well as outdoor pollutants — car exhaust, for instance — increases your risk of emphysema.
- Heredity. A rare, inherited deficiency of the protein, alpha-1-antitrypsin (AAt) can cause emphysema, especially before age 50, and even earlier if you smoke.
- HIV infection. Smokers living with HIV are at greater risk of emphysema — and of developing the disease at a relatively young age — than are smokers who don't have HIV infection.
- Connective tissue disorders. Some conditions that affect connective tissue — the fibers which provide the framework and support for your body — are associated with emphysema. These conditions include cutis laxa, a rare disease that causes premature aging, and Marfan syndrome, a disorder affecting many different body organs, especially the heart, eyes, skeleton and lungs.