Emphysema is a chronic obstructive disease of the lungs. The lungs contain millions of tiny air sacs called alveoli. In emphysema, the sacs lose their elasticity and air becomes trapped in the sacs. It becomes difficult to expel oxygen-depleted air from the lungs, so the normal exchange of new and used air is diminished. Emphysema is classified as a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Â© 2009 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.
Emphysema develops due to:
These factors increase your chance of developing emphysema. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
Early symptoms include:
As the disease progresses, you may experience:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam.
Tests may include:
There is no treatment to cure emphysema. Treatment aims to ease symptoms and improve quality of life.
Treatment includes:Smoking Cessation
Quitting smoking slows progression of the disease. Doctors consider it the most important aspect of treatment. Smoking cessation programs may include behavior modification and medications to help you gradually taper off cigarettes.Environmental Management
Limiting the number of irritants in the air may help make breathing easier. Avoid smoke, dust, smog, extreme heat or cold, and high altitudes.Medication
Although no medication will actually cure emphysema, a variety of drugs are available to help ease the symptoms and fight the complications. These include:
Oxygen is given to supplement the air taken in by the body. It can increase energy levels and heart and brain function by increasing the amount of available oxygen.
Because emphysema makes you prone to flu and pneumonia , doctors recommend an annual flu shot . Be sure to have a pneumococcal vaccine. Avoid being around people who are sick. If you think you are getting the flu, call your doctor. You may need to take an antiviral medication.
Special exercises can strengthen chest muscles and make breathing easier. Physical activity builds endurance and improves quality of life. Follow your doctor's recommendations for activity levels and restrictions.
Special methods of breathing and breathing exercises with and without an incentive spirometer can help bring more air into the lungs and force trapped air out of the lungs.
This is a technique that uses special techniques of clapping on the back and chest to help loosen secretions and special positioning to help the lungs drain.
A small number of patients may benefit from surgery. Procedures used to treat emphysema include:
If you are diagnosed with emphysema, follow your doctor's instructions.
You can reduce you chances of developing emphysema by:
Last reviewed January 2009 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.