The major symptoms of air pockets in the lungs are shortness of breath and difficulty breathing, according to WebMD. Air trapped in these air pockets make it difficult to breathe out, which makes the lungs and diaphragm work harder, and breathing becomes increasingly difficult with advanced emphysema.
These air pockets form after the lining between air sacs is destroyed due to years of smoking. Patients often feel breathless during routine activities because the muscles responsible for breathing tire out more quickly as they try to expel larger volumes of air. Shortness of breath is the most common symptom of emphysema, notes WebMD. Wheezing, coughing and chest tightness may also occur with this disease.
Stages of emphysema are measured by forceful expiratory volume, which is the amount of air a patient can exhale in one second. The mildest stage of emphysema has an FEV of 80 percent or greater of the normal value. The worst stage of emphysema is less than 30 percent of normal FEV. Air trapped in pockets makes it more difficult for patients to forcefully exhale, explains WebMD. When more air pockets form, lung function gets worse.
Emphysema is one of several lung diseases known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and smoking is the leading cause of emphysema. Tiny alveoli in the lungs rupture after years of smoking, creating progressively larger air pockets, which, in turn, reduce the amount of oxygen taken to the body's vital organs, notes Mayo Clinic.