Emphysema is a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), wherein the bronchioles (tiny air sacs) in the lungs get inflamed and lose elasticity. This leads to overstretching and rupture of the air sacs since the air gets entrapped in them. As a result, the ability of a person to breathe normally gets impaired.
Causes and Symptoms
Emphysema is primarily caused due to smoking. Other causes include:
- Inhalation of polluted air
- Frequent exposure to dust and industrial chemicals
- Lower respiratory infections that occur frequently
- Passive smoking
- Deficiency of a protein called alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) (genetic disorder)
Although emphysema cannot be cured, its symptoms can be minimized. The main aim of the treatment is to provide relief from the symptoms, prevent further damage to the lungs, and slow down the progress of the disease.
For smokers, the most important treatment is to stop smoking. This is the only way to help the lungs from getting worse. For some people, the prospect to quit smoking suddenly does not come easy, and so they may require a comprehensive smoking-cessation plan.
The treatment plan also involves the use of certain drugs to manage the symptoms and help the patient feel better. One type of these drugs are bronchodilators, which help in treating shortness of breath and coughing. Also, there are certain corticosteroid drugs which are inhaled in order to tackle the symptoms related to asthma and bronchitis. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) tends to aggravate the symptoms in most people. Therefore, to deal with this trigger, patients are prescribed certain medications and lifestyle changes. Respiratory infections such as flu, bronchitis, and pneumonia may also arise in people affected by this condition. Therefore, certain antibiotics may be used to treat these infections.
Patients with breathing difficulties may find relief by using supplemental oxygen at home. In some cases, people may even require it 24 hours a day.
This is an intensive program which provides counseling, nutritional guidance, and training of various breathing techniques to patients. This helps relieve the breathing difficulties and improve the quality of life.
Some doctors may also recommend an influenza (flu) shot annually, and a pneumonia shot every five years.
When conventional treatments fail to improve the condition, patients seek surgical treatment. The surgeons may remove the diseased tissues of the lungs to help the organ work more effectively. In severe cases, lung transplant may be the only viable option.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for lungs which have been affected by emphysema. The only natural treatment is to quit smoking, and inculcate healthy diet and regular exercises in one's lifestyle. One can also follow the preventive measures like avoiding respiratory irritants, respiratory infections, and consuming plenty of non-alcoholic fluids every day.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.