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Non-Infectious Diseases and Emphysema Paper

Identify causes of non-infectious disease using an example from each of the following categories: -inherited disease, nutritional deficiencies, and environmental disease.

A non-infectious disease is defined, according to Alford and others (2002, p. 212), as a disease that cannot be spread from one organism to another. Alford continues to explain that non infectious diseases can be categorised into three distinct classes. These are inherited diseases, nutritional deficiencies and environmental diseases.

Inherited Disease

An inherited disease is “due to genetic defects passed on from previous generations.” (Auburn and others, 2000, p. 384). An example of a genetic disease is glaucoma. “Glaucoma is an eye disease characterised by increased pressure of the fluid within the eye and is a leading cause of blindness worldwide.” (Glaucoma, World Book Millennium Encyclopaedia, 2000) The aqueous humour–the fluid that nourishes the cornea and the lens–does not drain properly, and as pressure in the eye increases, the optic nerve is destroyed. This is described in World Book Millennium Encyclopaedia CD Rom Glaucoma article. The article further explains that Glaucoma is caused by an alteration within a gene that controls the eye’s production of aqueous humour, and is passed on from one generation to the next.

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Nutritional Disease

Alford and others, (2002, p. 78) describe a nutritional disease as resulting from malnutrition where there are either deficiencies in vitamin or protein intake, or an inadequate imbalanced diet. “Kwashiorkor is a specific protein deficiency caused by weaning a child on to a diet very low in protein and high in carbohydrate.” (Auburn and others, 2000, p.385) Kwashiorkor mainly occurs in developing countries where rice and starchy foods are the basic diet and it affects children. The article Kwashiorkor on the World Book Millennium Encyclopaedia CD-Rom (2000) describes the cause of Kwashiorkor as severe malnutrition where the young body is not consuming enough protein needed to build and repair body tissue, something that is vital at a young age.

Environmental Disease

An environmental disease is “associated with factors in the environment that include high stress levels, noise, overcrowding, drugs and pollutants.” (Alford and others, 2002, p. 78) An example of an environmental disease is Emphysema, “a disease of the lungs where tiny air sacs in the lungs, the alveoli, and the passage leading to the air sacs (the bronchioles) become permanently distended with air.” (Emphysema, 1998, p. 475) The American Lung association (‘Emphysema’, Online, 2003) define the cause of emphysema as “an alteration in the chemical balance of the lungs, which occurs due to cigarette smoke (both passive and proactive), air pollution, industrial dust, and in rare cases a deficiency in Alpha- Antitrypsin1, a substance that fights destructive enzymes in the lungs.” Emphysema is the disease that I will expand on for this report.

Identify data sources, father information from secondary sources to analyse and present information about the occurrence, symptoms, cause, treatment/management of a named non-infectious disease.


In literal terms, Emphysema is the disease characterised by “excess air in the lungs.” The pathological definition of Emphysema is “a condition in which there is over-inflation of structures in the lungs known as alveoli or air sacs. This over-inflation results from a breakdown of the walls of the alveoli, which causes a decrease in respiratory function.”(“Encarta, Online, 2003) It is known from scientific research that the normal lung has a remarkable balance between two classes of chemicals that have opposing action. The elastic fibres in the lung allow the lungs to expand and contract. When the chemical balance is altered, the lungs lose their ability to protect themselves against the destruction of these elastic fibres. This is what occurs in emphysema.


In recent years, Emphysema has become a serious public health problem in terms of rapidly increasing numbers of disabilities and deaths. In a fact sheet produced by the ‘American Lung Association,’ Emphysema ranks 15th among chronic conditions that contribute to activity limitations. “The study concluded almost 44 percent of individuals with emphysema report that their daily activities have been limited by the disease.” (‘American Lung Association’, Online, 2003) The occurrence of Emphysema can be assessed in terms of smoking status, age, gender, race, and occupation.

The highest degree of occurrence is among heavy cigarette smokers, especially those exposed to polluted air. In an Australian data study conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 1995(‘Austats’, Online, 2003), the prevalence of respiratory conditions (including emphysema) overall was higher in smokers (37%) and in ex-smokers (41%) than in those who had never smoked (36%). As visible in the table below, Figure 1.1, Emphysema was present in 9.2% of smokers in the Australian community in 1995. However it is quite possible that this figure is significantly larger, as the table also indicates that the column “All respiratory conditions” is data collected where people had more than one respiratory condition. The American Lung Association (‘American Lung Association, Online, 2003) supports this assertion as “emphysema is often coupled with other respiratory tract illness.”

Figure 1.1

The occurrence of emphysema is almost limited to the aged population as “Emphysema rarely occurs before the age of 40.” (‘Emphysema,’ 1998, p. 474) ‘E-medicine’ (Online, 2003) asserts that lung function naturally declines with age, and therefore it stands to reason that the older the person, the more likely they will have enough lung tissue destruction to produce emphysema.

In the analysis of the occurrence of emphysema in terms of gender, Men are more likely to develop emphysema than women. ‘Emphysema’ (1998, p.474) suggests the reason for this as “there may be a hormonal factor that protects women from the disease.” However, research into this has so far been inconclusive.

Emphysema is also less likely to develop in Chinese and Afro-Caribbean races. This may be due to the population of smokers being comparatively less than other countries.

The occurrence of emphysema is also quite high in certain occupations. “The chance of developing emphysema is greater in people who have spent many years in contact with lung irritants such as air pollution, chemical fumes, vapours, and dusts.” (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Information Centre, Online, 2003)

The occurrence of emphysema is a prevalent concern in society, as it places stress on families of sufferers, health systems and economy of the country.


A person with emphysema will display many physical and psychological symptoms of the disease. “The most obvious physical symptom of emphysema is breathlessness.” (‘Emphysema, 1998, p.475) This breathlessness is followed by a chronic cough, with or without the production of mucus. E-medicine(online 2003, suggests even though coughing is quite normal, in a sufferer of emphysema even the slightest exertion, such as talking or laughing, can start a deep chronic cough. Other physical symptoms of emphysema are listed in the table below, however it must be stressed that the occurrence of these symptoms is dependant on the severity of condition:

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