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Emphysema Symptoms: What They Are and How to Manage Them

10 Apr 2017
| Under Disease Education, Emphysema, Medical | Posted by
Emphysema Symptoms: What They Are and How to Manage Them

For people living with emphysema, each person has a different set of challenges they must face. What makes these challenges unique to each person are factors such as what caused the disease, environmental conditions and overall health prior to diagnosis. But, one aspect which remains constant for many is which emphysema symptoms can be expected.

With your health in mind, let’s take a look at emphysema symptoms, what they are and how to manage them.

What is Emphysema?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 3.4 million Americans have been diagnosed with emphysema, as of 2014. Emphysema is an obstructive lung disease which gradually destroys the air sacs in the lungs. These air sacs are responsible for bringing oxygen to the bloodstream. This makes breathing become more difficult over time. Emphysema, along with chronic bronchitis, are part of a lung disease collective known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Emphysema Symptoms and How to Manage Them

Emphysema Symptoms: What They Are and How to Manage Them

There is a common set of emphysema symptoms, including persistent cough, shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness. Remember, if you are experiencing these symptoms for extended periods, contact your doctor immediately. Below is a breakdown of emphysema symptoms and how to better manage them.

Persistent Cough

Persistent cough, also known as a “smoker’s cough,” is a common symptom for those with emphysema. A smoker’s cough is known as a dry, hacking cough. Coughing is the body’s way of expelling harmful substances and foreign particles. Due to long-term damage from emphysema, the lungs get irritated, leading to the persistent cough.

One of the most common treatment options for a persistent cough is beta-agonists, also known as bronchodilators. Bronchodilators are inhalers designed to help open airways to allow more oxygen to enter the lungs.

Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath is the feeling that breathing requires far more effort than is normally required. This symptom normally occurs while exerting oneself, during emotional experiences or feeling stressed. Shortness of breath is also referred to as labored breathing or breathlessness.

Shortness of breath can be a frightening symptom because it can feel like you cannot get enough air. In addition to using the prescribed inhalers, there are several seated and standing positions which can help reduce the feeling of shortness of breath.


A common emphysema symptom is wheezing. Wheezing is characterized by an abnormal whistling noise while breathing. In fact, wheezing is the result of damage or the narrowing of the tree-like structures in the lungs, or bronchioles, as air passes through them. As the air travels through abnormal pathways, the air causes a whistling sound.

Try eating foods with anti-inflammatory properties, such as those rich with vitamin C. Vitamin C-enriched foods include tomatoes, leafy greens, berries and citrus fruit. Your doctor may also recommend that you take anti-inflammatory medications to reduce inflammation.

Chest Tightness

Chest tightness is a common feeling for those with chronic lung disease. Some of the common feelings associated with chest tightness include the feeling that the chest is being squeezed or crushed, the chest feeling stiff or pressure on the lungs keeping them from filling up. Often, chest tightness happens at the same time as wheezing or shortness of breath.

To help relieve the feeling of chest tightness try a relaxation technique, such as the belly breathing technique. The belly breathing technique, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, can be done sitting in a comfortable chair or on a bed.

Treatment Options for Emphysema Symptoms

Emphysema Symptoms: What They Are and How to Manage Them

As mentioned above, there are a number of ways to help relieve emphysema symptoms, ranging from diet and medication to breathing techniques. While those techniques help with symptoms, they don’t address emphysema at the source – the lungs.

Over the past few years, more and more emphysema patients have searched for options beyond medication and pulmonary rehabilitation. One treatment option showing promise is cellular therapy.
Here, at the Lung Institute, we use cells from the patient’s own body to help promote healing within the lungs and which may improve quality of life.

If you or someone you know is battling emphysema, chronic bronchitis, COPD, pulmonary fibrosis or interstitial lung disease, it may be time to consider the Lung Institute. For more information on cellular therapy, please contact us or call 888-745-6697.

*For more information, go to www.LungInstitute.com/Results.

All claims made regarding the efficacy of Lung Institute's treatments as they pertain to pulmonary conditions are based solely on anecdotal support collected by Lung Institute. Individual conditions, treatment and outcomes may vary and are not necessarily indicative of future results. Testimonial participation is voluntary. Lung Institute does not pay for or script patient testimonials.

As required by Texas state law, the Lung Institute Dallas Clinic has received Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval from MaGil IRB, now Chesapeake IRB, which is fully accredited by the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Program (AAHRPP), for research protocols and procedures. The Lung Institute has implemented these IRB approved standards at all of its clinics nationwide. Approval indicates that we follow rigorous standards for ethics, quality, and protections for human research.

Each patient is different. Results may vary.