Emphysema is a condition that involves the enlargement of the air sacs in the lungs and is part of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The alveoli become enlarged due to the breakdown of their walls. The larger and fewer damaged sacs that are a result of this shows that the surface area of exchange of oxygen into the blood and the carbon dioxide coming out of it is reduced. The damage is not reversible and causes breathlessness and reduced respiratory function.
- Bronchodilators such as indacaterol, salmeterol, formoterol, and albuterol
- Corticosteroids such as fluticasone and beclomethasone
Emphysema is a progressive disease. The most common symptoms and characteristics are shortness of breath and cough that is mainly caused by prolonged smoke exposure. Other emphysema symptoms that you may experience include:
- Weight loss
- Sleep problems
- Reduced appetite
- Anxiety, depression
- Frequent lung infections
- Producing a lot of mucus
- Blueness of the lips or fingernail beds
- A morning headache signals nighttime breathing difficulty
Other medical conditions share many of the characteristics and symptoms that are found in COPD and Emphysema. It is recommended that you consult your general physician for examination and diagnosis.
The biggest cause or risk factor of emphysema is smoking. Other inhaled toxins may also lead to COPD and Emphysema, which include work related ones. Heating and smoking from indoor cooking in developing countries can also cause COPD and Emphysema. The following may also cause Emphysema and COPD:
- Air pollution
- Low body weight
- Exposure to passive cigarette smoking
- Occupational dust such as cotton dust and mineral dust
- Childhood respiratory disorders
- Inhaled chemicals such as cadmium, coal, grains, and isocyanates
There is a rare form of COPD and Emphysema that are caused by genetics. The genetic disease can affect people who do not smoke which explains some of the cases that start earlier in life. However, smoking accelerates genetically predisposed case of Emphysema.
There are specific tests that are used to diagnose COPD and Emphysema, and your healthcare provider may also perform a physical examination and take a history to support a diagnosis. By doing this, you will also be able to differentiate it from other conditions such as heart failure and asthma.
- Lung function – also called pulmonary function tests confirm a diagnosis of Emphysema. Lung function test is used to:
- Differentiate COPD from other respiratory disorders
- Confirm airflow limitation
- Quantify the reversibility and severity of the limitation
- Other tests that are done by healthcare providers to diagnose COPD and Emphysema include:
- Imaging of the lungs via CT scanning or chest X-ray
- Arterial blood gas analysis to assess oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange.
When treating Emphysema, there are two elements that can help in the management of COPD and Emphysema. These are supportive therapy and medication. Supportive treatment includes help with smoking cessation and oxygen therapy. Emphysema can be treated through:
- Drug therapies – they are mostly inhaled bronchodilators
- Oxygen therapy – this improves oxygen delivery to the lungs by supplementing it through some device options.
- Pulmonary rehabilitation – this is a program of care for people with Emphysema that helps with nutrition, smoking cessation, and physical activities such as education, exercise and behavioral interventions.
- Prevention – smoking cessation
- Vaccination – this is preventive of exacerbations in people with Emphysema and COPD.
- Treatment of exacerbation