Emphysema is a lung disease that often develops as a result of a long period of smoking. Once emphysema has developed, it cannot be reversed. It affects the alveoli, which are the lungs' air sacs. Because the air sacs weaken and eventually break, the surface area of the lungs and the amount of oxygen that may enter the bloodstream are reduced. This makes breathing difficult, especially during exercise. The lungs lose their flexibility as a result of emphysema. Emphysema is one of the two most prevalent conditions classified as a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Chronic bronchitis is the other primary COPD condition. Since emphysema is an irreversible disease, therapy focuses on slowing its course of progression and reducing symptoms.
Symptoms of Emphysema
Symptoms may be slightly different for each person. The following are the most common symptoms of pulmonary emphysema.
Early symptoms of pulmonary emphysema may include
- Rapid breathing
- Sputum production
- Shortness of breath
Other symptoms may include:
- Sleep problems
- Swelling of the legs
- Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- Heart problems
- Over-inflation of the lungs
- Weight loss
The symptoms of pulmonary emphysema might mimic those of other lung diseases or health issues. Seek medical advice to get a diagnosis.
When to see a doctor?
Consult your doctor if you've been experiencing unexplained shortness of breath for several months and it's growing worse or interfering with your normal activities. If you have any of these symptoms, get medical attention right away.
- You can't climb stairs because you're out of breath.
- When you strain yourselves, the lips or fingernails turn blue or grey.
- You're not behaving rationally.
Pulmonary emphysema develops gradually over time. It’s caused by:
- Cigarette smoking (the main cause)
- Exposure to pollutants in the air, such as chemical fumes, dust, and other materials
- Irritating fumes and dust at work
- AAT deficiency-related pulmonary emphysema, also known as early-onset pulmonary emphysema, is a rare, hereditary form of the condition.
The following factors may increase the chances of developing emphysema:
- The most significant risk factor is smoking. Emphysema affects up to 75% of those who smoke or used to smoke.
- Long-term exposure to various lung irritants, such as secondhand smoking, air pollution, chemical fumes, and dust in the environment or at work.
- The most prevalent risk factor is an age since most persons with emphysema are at least 40 years old when symptoms first appear.
- Smoke inhaled unknowingly from another person's cigarette, pipe, or cigar is known as secondhand smoke, also known as passive or ambient tobacco smoke. Being exposed to secondhand smoke raises your chances of developing emphysema.
- Breathing interior pollutants like heating fuel fumes, as well as outdoor pollutants like automobile emissions, for example, raises your chance of lung cancer.
Serious consequences can develop if emphysema grows severe or is not properly treated. These may include:
- Pneumonia which is a bacterial or viral infection that affects the lungs.
- Diseases of the respiratory tract
- Pneumothorax, in which air accumulates between the lungs and the chest cavity, causing lung collapse.
- Respiratory acidosis, in which lungs do not get enough oxygen.
- Hypoxemia, in which the lungs are unable to sufficiently oxygenate the blood.
Smoking is the leading cause of emphysema, so quitting is the best way to avoid it. Secondhand smoking, air pollution, chemical fumes, and dust are all lung irritants that should be avoided.
Your doctor will begin by collecting information regarding your background and medical history, including whether you smoke and whether you work or live in an environment with harmful gases or pollution.
Emphysema may be detected using a variety of tests, including:
- X-rays and CT scans to examine your lungs.
- Testing of your blood to see how well your lungs are transporting oxygen.
- Pulse oximetry to determines how much oxygen is in your blood.
- Lung function tests to determine how much air your lungs can hold and how well they carry oxygen to your bloodstream.
- Arterial blood gas to determine how much blood and carbon dioxide are in your blood.
- To examine heart function and rule out cardiac illness, an electrocardiogram (ECG) can be recommended.
Since emphysema can worsen over time and there is no cure, therapy focuses on reducing the progression of the disease. The type of treatment will be chosen by the disease's intensity.
If you smoke, give it up. This is the single most critical thing you can do to safeguard your lungs. It is never too late to make a change. Your doctor can assist you in determining the best technique for stopping smoking for you.
Medications that relax the muscles around the airways are known as bronchodilators. Asthma is commonly treated with them. Bronchodilators given through hand-held inhalants provide a faster onset of action and fewer adverse effects than oral drugs.
These drugs help to decrease inflammation in the lungs. These medications, on the other hand, have long-term negative effects such as osteoporosis, hypertension, excessive blood sugar, and fat redistribution.
Oxygen therapy is used to treat people whose lungs aren't supplying enough oxygen to their blood (hypoxemia). These people are unable to absorb enough oxygen from the outside air and must rely on a machine to provide additional oxygen (a nasal catheter or a facemask).
Lung volume reduction surgery
Lung volume reduction surgery involves removing a piece of damaged lung tissue and then stitching the remaining tissue back together. This may assist restore lung flexibility and alleviating strain on the breathing muscles (or stretch). The surgery's outcomes have been quite favourable. This operation is not appropriate for all emphysema patients.
Lifestyle Changes and Selfcare
If you have emphysema, there are a few things you may do to slow down the disease's course and protect yourself against complications:
This is the most crucial step you can take for your overall health, and it's the only way to prevent emphysema from progressing. If you need help quitting smoking, join a smoking cessation programme. Avoid secondhand smoking as much as possible.
Avoid other respiratory irritants
These include paint and car exhaust fumes, some culinary odours, some fragrances, and even burning candles and incense. To keep pollutants to a minimum, change the filters in your furnace and air conditioner on a regular basis.
Try not to let your breathing problems keep you from getting regular exercise, which can significantly increase your lung capacity.
Protect yourself from cold air
The respiratory passageways might constrict when exposed to cold air, making breathing even more difficult. Before stepping outside in the cold, wrap a soft scarf around your mouth and nose or put on a cold-air mask by allowing warm air to enter your lungs.
Get recommended vaccinations
Make sure you get an annual flu vaccine and pneumonia immunizations if your doctor recommends them.
Prevent respiratory infections
Avoid direct contact with people who have a cold or the flu as much as possible. Wear a face mask, wash your hands often, and carry a small bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitiser with you if you have to interact with large groups of people during the cold and flu season.
Dos and Don’ts
If you've just been diagnosed with Emphysema, you've probably been informed that your diet and daily habits need to improve. Emphysema is not curable, but good dietary habits and adjustments can help your body fight infections, particularly chest infections that can lead to pneumonia. So following the below do's and don'ts can help you manage it.
|Maintain an ideal body weight||Avoid symptoms like sudden weight loss|
|Exercise regularly||Take cough syrups as they can worsen the condition.|
|Observe the changes in the symptoms||Forget carrying an inhaler always|
|Give up smoking and all other tobacco-containing products||Take excessive stress|
|Follow the advice given by your doctor||Avoid taking prescribed medicines|
Take care of yourself and be strong inside to fight this condition.
Emphysema Care at Medicover Hospitals
We have the most trusted team of doctors and medical professionals at Medicover Hospitals who have expertise in offering exceptional healthcare services to the patients with compassion and care. Our diagnostic department is equipped with cutting-edge technology and equipment to perform the necessary tests for the diagnosis of emphysema, based on which a personalized treatment plan is designed. We have an experienced team of pulmonologists who deploy a comprehensive approach to diagnose and treat this problem. They treat this condition with extreme precision, resulting in positive results.