Congenital (present at birth) abnormalities can cause emphysema in children.
Emphysema occurs when there is damage to the alveoli (air sacs in the lungs). Typically a characteristic of adults with a history of smoking, this lung condition causes severe shortness of breath. In very rare cases, children can develop emphysema due to an abnormality that is present when they are born.
A hereditary (passed down in families) gene mutation causes emphysema in children.
Types of emphysema in children include:
- Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency – this protein protects the alveoli (air sacs in the lungs) from damage due to a certain enzyme in the body. This damage to the air sacs of the lungs can lead to emphysema.
- Lobar emphysema – a rare respiratory condition in which air enters the lungs but cannot escape, leading to over-inflation of the lungs
Signs and symptoms of emphysema may include:
- Breathing very quickly (respiratory distress)
- Bluish tint to the skin (due to decreased oxygen in the blood)
- Difficulty breathing
- Enlarged chest
- Underdevelopment of the cartilage that supports the bronchial tube (the passages through which air flows in and out of the lungs)