What is emphysema?

Emphysema is a kind of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). This condition damages the air sacs or alveoli in the lungs. It finally results is problems like shortness of breath. Smoking is said to be one of the major causes of this disease. Treatment is there to slow down the progression of this condition, can’t reverse the damage. It causes the inner walls of air sacs to weaken and rupture. As a result, the amount of oxygen that reaches the blood stream gets reduced.

What are the Symptoms of emphysema?

Emphysema may progress in a patient without showing any signs or symptoms for years. Shortness of breath is the main symptom of it. As the condition progresses, the patient may find shortness of breath even while at rest. It is important to visit a doctor if one is experiencing shortness of breath for a long time.

What causes emphysema?

Long-term influence of airborne irritants is the major causes include:

  • Air pollution

  • Tobacco smoke

  • Manufacturing fumes

  • Marijuana smoke

In rare cases, it can develop as a result of inherited deficiency of a protein. The elastic structures in the lungs are protected by this protein. Such kind of emphysema is called alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency.

How is emphysema diagnosed?

When a patient shows noticeable signs and symptoms of emphysema, the doctor will suggest certain tests to diagnose the condition. Some of the commonly prescribed diagnostic procedures include:

  • Imaging tests: X-ray and CT are usually suggested for finding emphysema in patients.

  • Lab tests: Blood from the artery is tested to find how well the lungs transfer and remove oxygen from the bloodstream.

  • Lab function tests: Noninvasive tests done to measure how well the lungs transfer oxygen to the bloodstream. These tests make use of an instrument called a spirometer.

Stages and life expectancy- Emphysema

Emphysema is a chronic condition that may influence one’s life expectancy and survival. Considerably, there are four stages of this lung condition:

  • Mild or stage 1

  • Moderate or stage 2

  • Severe or stage 3

  • Very severe or stage 4

Studies are still going on regarding the life expectancy of a patient with this lung condition. There are various factors which may affect the life expectancy of  the patient. Some studies point that, a patient with very severe emphysema can survive for about four years.

What are the treatments for emphysema?

Treatments are there only to relieve the symptoms as the condition cannot be cured. With medication and other treatment options, the doctor will try to slow the development of the disease.

  • Medications:

  • Antibiotics

  • Inhaled steroids

  • Bronchodilators

  • Therapy:

  • Supplemental oxygen

  • Nutrition therapy

  • Pulmonary rehabilitation

  • Surgery:

  • Lung transplant

  • Lung volume reduction surgery