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Paraseptal Emphysema Causes and Symptoms

Medically Reviewed by Paul Boyce, MD on August 19, 2022

Emphysema is a serious, lifelong lung disease that leaves you wheezing and short of breath. It has three main types. Paraseptal emphysema is the rarest. You can have it and not know it.

What Is Paraseptal Emphysema?

Doctors also call it distal acinar emphysema. It mainly damages the tiny ducts that connect to your lung’s fragile air sacs that help you breathe. Paraseptal emphysema usually affects the upper parts of your lung. Fluid-filled sacs called bullae form on the organ’s surface.

If you have been diagnosed with paraseptal emphysema, chances are good that you may have other forms of emphysema as well. One imaging study, which looked at people who smoke and had lung problems, found that about half of them likely had more than one form of emphysema.

The other forms of emphysema are centriacinar and panacinar. Centriacinar tends to cause the most harm in the upper parts of the lung. Panacinar is more likely to appear in the lower lung regions.

Causes

If you smoke or used to smoke, you’re at higher risk for all types of emphysema. Paraseptal emphysema happens much more often in men than in women.

Other things that may raise your chances for the disease include if you’ve been exposed to a lot of pollution, toxic fumes, and other hazards.

Symptoms

You may not feel any effects of paraseptal emphysema until as much as half of your lung tissue is gone. Tell your doctor right away if you notice that you:

  • Get short of breath while climbing stairs and other routine activities
  • Sometimes feel you can’t get enough air into your lungs
  • Can’t shake a cough, or you’re wheezing at times
  • Cough up mucus
  • Feel unusually tired or worn out

You may be unaware if you have paraseptal emphysema. Sometimes, the disease is detected with high-tech scans, such as CT scans, that screen for lung cancer.

Possible Complications

Paraseptal emphysema can cause damage that over time leads to empty spaces in your lung tissue. If they get too big, you may be at risk for a collapsed lung. But that happens rarely.

If you still smoke, try to quit. That will help slow the damage from your emphysema. Going smoke-free also will help you better avoid other lung problems, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

American Journal of Medicine: “Pulmonary Emphysema Subtypes on Computed Tomography in Smokers.”

American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine: “Paraseptal Emphysema: From the Periphery of the Lobule to Center of the Stage.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Emphysema.”

European Journal of Radiology: “Paraseptal Emphysema: Prevalence and Distribution on CT and Association with Interstitial Lung Abnormalities.”

Mayo Clinic: “Emphysema.”

Medscape: “What is the pathophysiology of emphysema in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)?”

UpToDate: “Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: Definition, clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and staging.”

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