The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Emphysema is a progressive disease, meaning it gets worse over time. It’s a condition that affects the lungs, causes shortness of breath and impacts the exchange of oxygen in the lungs. This forces the other organs in the body to work harder to spread oxygen throughout the body. While there is no cure for emphysema, there are emphysema treatment options that can help improve the quality of life of individuals with this condition.
What are Some Emphysema Treatment Options?
Emphysema treatment options typically seek to address the following issues:
- bronchial muscle contraction
- mucus and congestion
- inflammation of the airways
- airway secretions
You and your doctor will work together to develop a treatment plan. Often, emphysema treatment options include inhalers, oral medications, supplemental oxygen, surgery, pulmonary rehab and stem cell therapy. It’s important to follow your doctor’s treatment plan and to take medications exactly as prescribed.
Bronchodilators are inhaled medications that relax the air passageways, improving airflow in and out of the lungs. They can be used short-term to provide quick-relief for symptom flare-ups, or long-term to manage symptoms.
Inhaled steroids, such as corticosteroids, are frequently prescribed to treat emphysema. They reduce inflammation to relieve emphysema symptoms.
Oral medications can be used long-term to make it easier to breathe and to increase exercise tolerance. Prednisone is commonly prescribed with bronchodilators. Antibiotics are also commonly prescribed to prevent pulmonary infections like pneumonia. Other medications such as Mucinex and Robitussin may also be taken to help bring up mucus from the lungs.
Many people with emphysema use supplemental oxygen to ensure the body receives enough oxygen. Some people require supplemental oxygen 24 hours a day, while others use it as needed.
Most tanks are made from steel or aluminum and can be bulky. There are also liquid oxygen tanks available, which are more compact and can be easier to carry around.
Sometimes a lung reduction surgery can help to reduce emphysema symptoms. Not everyone qualifies for lung reduction surgery, and it is generally not performed on older adults because of the higher risk. Typically, those who have lung damage that’s centralized on the upper lobes of both lungs, tend to see the most benefit from lung reduction surgery.
Pulmonary rehabilitation is an excellent emphysema treatment option that may help improve exercise tolerance, reduce flare-ups and improve overall quality of life. Doctors often recommend it after a lung reduction surgery or as part of a treatment plan.
The goal of pulmonary rehabilitation is to restore the highest-level lung function possible, accomplished through physical activity, various treatment options and developing coping techniques.
Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cell therapy is an emphysema treatment option that has helped several patients improve their quality of life. At the Lung Institute, stem cell therapy is a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure that involves harvesting cells from a patient’s own body. A large percentage of Lung Institute patients have experienced improved lung function and an overall improvement in their quality of life after receiving stem cell therapy.
If you or a loved one suffers from emphysema and would like to explore stem cell therapy as a treatment option, we’d be happy to provide you with more information. Contact us today to speak directly with one of our patient coordinators.