The official blog of the Lung Institute.
After an emphysema diagnosis, the next step is beginning a treatment plan. A treatment plan is important because it acts like a strategy for emphysema patients to help slow down the disease progression and improve quality of life. With your health in mind, let’s take a look at the variety of emphysema treatment options available.
What is Emphysema?
Emphysema is a chronic lung disease known for the gradual destruction of the air sacs in the lungs, which makes breathing more difficult. These air sacs are responsible for bringing oxygen into the bloodstream. Over time, as emphysema progresses, the inner walls of the air sacs form holes which weaken their internal structure. This limits the amount of oxygen from entering the bloodstream while destroying the elasticity of the lungs. Emphysema is one of the major lung diseases associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Emphysema Treatment Options
Like all chronic lung diseases, there is no cure for emphysema. Luckily, there are a variety of treatment options available with the goal of slowing the progression of the disease.
Some of the common medications prescribed to emphysema patients include bronchodilators, inhaled steroids and antibiotics.
Bronchodilators are designed to relieve coughing, shortness of breath and other breathing problems by relaxing and opening the air passages in the lungs. Bronchodilator medications can be inhaled as aerosol sprays or taken orally. Typically, they are taken through an inhaler.
Inhaled steroids can help those dealing with emphysema symptoms associated with asthma and bronchitis. One of the negatives to using inhaled steroids, also known as corticosteroids, is that prolonged usage may lead to weakened bones and increase the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and cataracts.
For people who develop a bacterial infection, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, antibiotics can be prescribed to help fight the infection.
Oxygen Therapy and Pulmonary Rehab
In addition to medication, pulmonary specialists may recommend a therapy program such as supplemental oxygen or pulmonary rehabilitation. A pulmonary rehabilitation program helps people with chronic lung disease and emphysema learn breathing exercises and techniques designed to help reduce the feeling of breathlessness.
Supplemental oxygen, or oxygen therapy, is prescribed for people having trouble getting enough oxygen when they breathe. People with low blood oxygen levels usually follow a supplemental oxygen therapy program to get levels back within normal ranges. Supplemental oxygen comes in two forms: compressed oxygen or liquid oxygen.
In more severe cases, doctors may recommend surgery when looking at emphysema treatment options. Common surgeries used to relieve emphysema symptoms include lung transplant or lung volume reduction surgery.
Just as it sounds, a lung volume reduction surgery is a procedure which a large area of damaged lung is removed. Lung volume reduction surgery allows the remaining tissue to expand when obstructive lung disease patients breathe in.
A lung transplant is a procedure replacing a lung disease patient’s lung(s) with someone else’s lung(s). There are many factors to consider before having a lung transplant, such as pre-existing conditions and availability. But it should be noted that a lung transplant is considered by many to be a last resort because the lungs hold one of the highest rates for organ rejection among transplant recipients.
Stem Cell Therapy
Medicine, therapy and surgery can all be effective emphysema treatment options. But for some, those options are not enough. Over the last few years, emphysema patients have been looking for new treatment alternatives to help with their symptoms. Stem cell therapy is one of those alternative emphysema treatment options showing promise.
Here, at the Lung Institute, we use autologous stem cells from the patient’s own body, which may improve quality of life in those with chronic lung disease.
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 stem cell therapy, please contact us or call (800) 729-3065.