What is Emphysema?
Dr. Dayanand Suryavamshi
C v raman nagar, Bengaluru Mar 23, 2018
It is a lung condition that causes shortness of breath. It damages the air sacs in the lungs and by the time the inner walls of the air sacs weaken and rupture, creating larger air spaces instead of many small ones. It results in the reduced surface area of the lungs and because of this the amount of oxygen that reaches bloodstream also reduces. When someone exhales, the damaged alveoli don’t work properly and the old air becomes trapped, leaving no room for fresh, oxygen-rich air to enter.
Most people with emphysema also have chronic bronchitis, an inflammation of the tubes that carry air to the lungs, which leads to a persistent cough.
It is caused by long-term exposure to airborne irritants, including:
- Tobacco smoke
- Marijuana smoke
- Air pollution
- Chemical fumes and dust
Very rarely it can also be caused by inherited deficiency of alpha-1 antitrypsin, which is a protein that protects the elastic structures in the lungs. It is called alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency emphysema.
Its risk factors include:
- Exposure to second-hand smoke
- Occupational exposure to fumes or dust
- Exposure to indoor and outdoor pollution
It doesn’t show symptoms for many years. The main symptom is shortness of breath.
The doctor will ask for medical history and do a physical exam. The doctor may recommend several tests such as:
- Chest X-ray
- CT scan
- Blood test
- Lung Function Tests using the spirometer
Emphysema cannot be cured, but treatments can relieve symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.
Doctor suggest certain medications such as bronchodilators, inhaled steroids and antibiotics depending upon the severity of symptoms.
- Pulmonary Rehabilitation: It can teach a person breathing exercises and techniques that may help reduce breathlessness and improve the ability to exercise.
- Nutrition Therapy: The person will receive proper advice about nutrition.
- Supplemental oxygen: If a person has severe emphysema with low blood oxygen levels, using oxygen regularly at home and when you exercise may provide some relief.
- Lung volume reduction surgery: In this surgeon removes small wedges of damaged lung tissue. This will help the remaining lung tissue expand and work more efficiently.
- Lung Transplant: It is an option if you have severe lung damage and other options have failed.