Emphysema Q & A
What is emphysema?
Emphysema is a chronic, progressive disease of the lungs which causes shortness of breath because of the over-inflation of the air sacs in the lung, called alveoli. Here, the lung tissue involved in the flow of breath is damaged or destroyed. Emphysema is also called an obstructive lung disease because airflow during exhalation is slowed down or stopped. Smokers are more likely to develop emphysema.
What are the symptoms?
Shortness of breath is the most common symptom. Coughing, occasionally caused by the mucus production, and wheezing can also be symptoms. Exercise usually also becomes difficult. Emphysema also typically develops slowly. Those with the condition may not have the classic episodes of acute shortness of breath. One of the main signs of emphysema is "pursed-lip breathing." Here, the person struggles to exhale completely. They purse their lips, leaving only a small opening for air. Then, when people exhale the lips block the flow of air, increasing pressure in the collapsed airways, opening them. This allows the trapped air to empty.
How is it treated?
Different approaches to treatment are available at Premier Family Medical. The treatment used will depend on the severity of the condition. Some of the treatments or recommendations include:
- Stop smoking: Quitting smoking can stop the progression of the condition and it can improve the function of the lungs
- Bronchodilation medications: These medications cause the air passages to open more fully and allow air to flow better. These medications are usually the first medications prescribed for emphysema
- Steroid medications: These can decrease swelling in the body including the lungs and have been shown to help treat emphysema
- Antibiotics: These drugs are often prescribed for those with emphysema who have more instances of shortness of breath. This can help to decrease episodes of shortness of breath
- Oxygen: In some cases, it can be necessary for people to receive oxygen at home as well. There are home-based oxygen tanks and portable units available which can help patients stay mobile and engage in normal everyday activities
Surgical options can also be a possible treatment. For more information, schedule a consultation with one of the expertly trained doctors at Premier Family Medical.