Emphysema is a progressive disease that stretches on a long term. It affects the lungs and causes shortness of breath. People who suffer with emphysema have their lung tissues damaged. The physical shape and the functioning of the lungs get affected. Emphysema is included in a group of diseases that are known as COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The lung tissues around the smaller airways known as bronchioles get destroyed. The airways are not able to hold their shape when people exhale. This makes them inefficient when they transfer oxygen into the blood and take out carbon dioxide from the blood.
Cigarette smoking is the major factor for the development of emphysema. It is also a preventable cause. Cigarette smoke causes mucus secretion to be increased while the ability to clear he secretion is reduced. This resulting buildup of mucus provides bacteria with a rich source of food and leads to infection. The immune cells in the lung try to prevent and fight this infection but they are also negatively affected by the cigarette smoke. Other risk factors include a deficiency in an enzyme called alpha-1-antirypsin. Other minor factors are air pollution, reactivity of airways and heredity. Air pollution works in the same manner as the cigarette smoke. The pollutants cause inflammation in the airways and destroy the lung tissue. Bronchial asthma leads to abnormal airway reactivity. Men are more likely to develop emphysema than women.
Shortness of breath is the most common symptom of emphysema. Cough is caused by the production of mucus and wheezing may also be present in emphysema. You may notice that your tolerance for exercise decreases over time. Emphysema usually develops slowly. You may not have any acute episodes of shortness of breath. This is especially the case if you are a smoker or have other medical problems that limit your ability to exercise.
Treatment for emphysema can take many forms:-
• Doctors could recommend people with emphysema to stop smoking.
• Bronchodilator drugs – These medications cause the air passages to open fully and allow better exchange. This is considered as the first line treatment of emphysema.
• Mucolytic tablets – These are drugs that make the mucus and phlegm in the throat thinner and it is easy to cough it out.
• Steroid medications – They decrease inflammation in the body. They are given either as tablets or they could even be inhaled through an inhaler.
• Antibiotics – These drugs are prescribed for those who are going through severe shortness of breath.
• Oxygen – Extreme cases of breathing difficulty may lead to treatment by oxygen supply. Sometimes, it will even become necessary to place a tube in the windpipe and allow a machine to help with breathing.
• Pulmonary rehabilitation – People who suffer with COPD are recommended pulmonary rehabilitation through education and exercise. It helps in improving their mobility, capacity to exercise and their confidence.