What Are the Basics of Emphysema?

1 Answer

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What is the definition of emphysema?

Emphysema is a kind of long-term lung disease that can cause shortness of breath. Patients have difficulty blowing air out, so there is less space for fresh air to enter their lungs. As a result, less oxygen can reach the bloodstream. People with emphysema tend to have chronic bronchitis, and it can trigger a persistent cough.  

Is emphysema relative to COPD?

COPD is the abbreviated form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. If a person has COPD, his risk of having heart disease and lung cancer will increase. Emphysema is one of the two conditions that constitute chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and the other one is chronic bronchitis.  

What are the symptoms of emphysema?

A typical symptom of emphysema is shortness of breath. Since it develops gradually, you may not notice it until it starts to disturb your daily life. If it keeps developing, you may find it hard to breathe even when you are at rest. Other symptoms include:
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • A persistent cough

What are the causes of emphysema?

Causes of emphysema include:
  • Smoking
  • Secondhand smoke
  • Air pollution
  • Chemical dust, fumes, and vapors
In rare cases, alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency can lead to emphysema, which is an inherited defect.  

How to diagnose emphysema?

To diagnose emphysema, your doctor will talk to you about your medical history. After that, you should do a physical exam. They include:
  • Lung function tests These can tell how much air your lungs can hold and how fast you can blow air out of your lungs.
  • Imaging tests These include a chest X-ray and a CT scan
  • Blood tests Blood tests need a sample of blood from an artery in your wrist.

How to prevent emphysema?

Here are some tips for you to prevent emphysema:
  • Quit smoking
  • Avoid secondhand smoke
  • Wear a mask when working with chemical fumes and dust
  • Keep your living condition clean
  • Get a flu shot annually

What are the treatments for emphysema?

Although there is no cure for emphysema, proper treatments can reduce symptoms. Medications can help relieve the symptoms. They include:
  • Antibiotics
  • Bronchodilators
  • Inhaled steroids
Your doctor may also suggest therapies:
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation
  • Supplemental oxygen
  • Nutrition therapy
Besides, surgery can be the treatment as well:
  • Lung volume reduction surgery
  • Lung transplant

Can you give me more information about medications for emphysema?

  • Antibiotics Antibiotics can help treat a bacterial infection, including pneumonia and acute bronchitis.
  • Bronchodilators These can help relax the muscles around the airways, so as to stop coughing and help you breathe easier.
  • Inhaled steroids These drugs can reduce inflammation in the airways. Nevertheless, there are some side effects.
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