What happens when you breathe in charcoal dust

What is centrilobular emphysema and how is it treated?

Is centrilobular emphysema the same as centriacineal emphysema?

Centrilobular emphysema, or centriacinar emphysema, is a long-term, progressive lung disease. It is viewed as a form of the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD.

Centrilobular emphysema mainly affects the upper lobes of the lungs. It is characterized by damage to your airways. These passages, called bronchioles, allow air to flow from your mouth and nose to your lungs.

The damage usually starts in the center of your lungs and gradually spreads outward.

The condition usually affects people who smoke or smoke cigarettes. Individuals suffering from coal worker pneumoconiosis CWP are also at risk.

Smoking is the leading cause of centrilobular emphysema. Smoking causes 85 to 90 percent of all COPD cases.

The toxic chemicals released from cigarettes:

  • irritates and weakens the lungs
  • Narrowing of your airways
  • destroy the air sacs alveoli of the lungs
  • Cause inflammation

These effects can also occur if you frequently inhale toxic fumes, such as charcoal dust. Therefore, centrilobular emphysema can occur in CWP.

Heavy pollution and second-hand smoke can also lead to centrilobular emphysema.

The risk factors for centrilobular emphysema increase with age. These factors include:

Smoking: Cigarette smokers are at the highest risk of developing centrilobular emphysema. However, people who smoke pipes and cigars can also develop an illness. Your risk of developing the disease depends on how long and how much tobacco you smoke.

Occupational exposure to vapors or dusts : Miners can develop centrilobular emphysema from inhaling charcoal dust. This also applies to workers who inhale fumes from grain, cotton or wood. This type of exposure combined with smoking increases your chances of developing the disease.

Contact with passive smoke or air pollution: Constant exposure to second-hand cigarette, cigar, or pipe smoke can increase the risk of centrilobular emphysema. Frequent exposure to air pollutants, including heating fuel fumes or car exhaust, can also cause the condition.

People who develop centrilobular emphysema are at higher risk of:

collapsed lungs : This is also known as a pneumothorax. A collapsed lung is a rare but serious condition that can be life-threatening for people with advanced emphysema.

Big holes in your lungs : Holes in the lungs called bullae can grow up to half the size of the lungs. Giant bullae can reduce the space for lung expansion and increase the risk of lung collapse.

Heart problems : Pressure builds up in the arteries that connect the lungs and heart when there is emphysema. This can cause the heart to swell and deteriorate.

Your doctor will diagnose centrilobular emphysema by evaluating your smoking and work experiences and performing certain tests.


Your doctor may order a chest x-ray to see if your lungs are enlarged or if you've developed other physical symptoms. A CT scan can also identify physical changes, such as enlarged arteries, that are associated with COPD.

Oxygen content

To measure the amount of oxygen in your blood, your doctor may perform a non-invasive pulse oximetry test. To do this, a clip-like device called a probe is attached to your finger or earlobe. The probe uses light to determine how much oxygen is present in your blood.

In some cases, an ABG arterial blood gas may need a test. A small blood sample is required for a AGB. This blood can be drawn from an artery in your wrist, arm, or groin.

Lung function

Pulmonary function tests are also known as pulmonary function tests. These tests can help you determine how well your lungs are working. There are two methods of doing this: spirometry and plethysmography.

In spirometry, your doctor uses a spirometer, a small device that is attached to a mouthpiece. This measures how much air you can push out of your lungs and how quickly you can push it out.

During plethysmography, your doctor will have you sit or stand in an airtight box that resembles a phone booth. This cabin is called a plethysmograph. Once inside, inhale into a mouthpiece. This can show your doctor how much air is in your lungs.

Your treatment will depend on the severity of your symptoms and how well your lungs are working.

While there is no cure for centrilobular emphysema, there are treatments that can help relieve your symptoms, prevent complications, and slow the progression of the disease.

Beta agonists

Treatment often includes inhaled beta agonists. This medication can relieve some symptoms and help you breathe better.

The most common short-acting beta agonist is an albuterol inhaler, which provides rapid relief from symptoms of asthma.

Long-acting beta agonists include Salmeterol Serevent and Formoterol Foradil. These are often the main ingredients in inhalers used to prevent and treat asthma and COPD.


Inhaled anticholinergics are another type of treatment. This drug blocks acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that causes skeletal muscles to contract and regulates the endocrine system.

Short-acting anticholinergics include ipratropium.

Formoterol is a long-acting beta2 agonist LABA. It's usually paired with an inhaled corticosteroid. Using a LABA as the sole therapy for asthma or COPD is not a good idea.

Ipratropium is a short-acting anticholinergic that is often paired with albuterol. Albuterol is a short-acting beta2 agonist.

Long-acting anticholinergics such as Tiotropium Spiriva are becoming increasingly common as treatment options.

Other treatment options

Roflumilast Daliresp, a long-acting phosphodiesterase-4 PDE4 inhibitor, is newer on the market. It has been shown to help reduce relapses and inflammation in the lungs. However, the drug has not been shown to improve lung function.

Additional treatment options are:

  • Oxygen therapy to support breathing difficulties
  • Flu vaccine and pneumonia to prevent infection
  • Antibiotics for respiratory infections
  • Protein therapy to slow the progression of lung damage
  • Surgery or lung transplant

Inhaled steroids are also an option. Inhaled steroids can lead to certain side effects over time. This includes :

  • High blood pressure in the eye ocular hypertension
  • Cataracts
  • diabetes
  • weakened bones

Talk to your doctor about the specific treatment options that are available to you. Your doctor can help you understand the potential risks and benefits of each treatment.

More information: Understanding emphysema treatments »

While there is no cure for centrilobular emphysema, there are many treatment options that can help manage your symptoms.

Life expectancy can decrease as the disease progresses. It is important to start treatment right away to help slow the progression of the disease.

If you smoke, quitting can help lessen your symptoms and reduce the risk of further harm. Reducing exposure to other harmful chemicals is also vital.

Centrilobular emphysema is absolutely avoidable. The condition is usually caused by external factors that are often controlled by you. For example, if you avoid or quit smoking, the risk of developing this condition will be greatly reduced.

Try to limit exposure to dust or fumes. If you are exposed to these pollutants at work, talk to your employer about wearing a protective mask over your mouth.

Read on: COPD vs. Emphysema: Is There a Difference? »