Emphysema is a lung condition that develops after many years of smoking. Always bear in mind that both chronic bronchitis and emphysema belongs to a group of lung ailments called as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Once the condition develops, it could not be reversed. This is the reason why not smoking or cessation is vital.
In this condition, it is characterized by damage to the walls of the air sacs of the lung. Once emphysema develops, the alveoli and lung tissue are destroyed. Due to the damage, the alveoli could not support the bronchial tubes. This results to blockage that traps air within the lungs. The excess air trapped in the lungs results to a barrel-chested appearance in some individuals. In addition, since there are less alveoli, the oxygen in the bloodstream is reduced.
The indications of emphysema might include wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and increased mucus production. Oftentimes, the symptoms might not be evident until 50% or more of the lung tissue has been destroyed.
Individuals with emphysema face a higher risk for bronchitis, pneumonia and other lung infections. A doctor should be consulted if any of these are present:
- Shortness of breath particularly during light physical activity or climbing stairs
- Long-term coughing or “smoker’s cough”
- Ongoing feeling of not able to get enough air
- Long-term production of mucus
Management of emphysema
Since emphysema worsens over time and there is no known cure, the treatment is aimed on slowing the deterioration. The form of treatment is based on the severity of the disease.
- Cessation of smoking – this is the vital step in protecting the lungs.
- Bronchodilators – these medications work by relaxing the muscles around the airways. These drugs that are administered via hand-held inhalants can provide immediate results and have lesser side effects than the oral medications.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs – these medications work by reducing the inflammation in the airways.
- Oxygen therapy – this is prescribed for individuals with lungs who could not receive enough oxygen
- Lung volume reduction surgery – this involves removal of a region of the diseased lung tissue and joining together the leftover tissue. This helps relieve the pressure on the breathing muscles and improves lung elasticity.
Disclaimer / More Information
The information posted on this page on emphysema is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize the indications, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Saskatoon, Victoria, Surrey, Mississauga, Winnipeg, Red Deer, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.