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Emphysema is a long-term, progressive disease of the lungs that primarily causes shortness of breath. In people with emphysema the lung tissues necessary to support the physical shape and function of the lung are damaged. It is included in a group of diseases called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD (pulmonary refers to the lungs). Emphysema is called an obstructive lung disease because the destruction of lung tissue around smaller airways, called bronchioles, makes these airways unable to hold their shape properly when you exhale. This makes them inefficient at transferring oxygen into the blood, and in taking carbon dioxide out of the blood.