How Does Emphysema Affect Lung Function: What You Need to Know

by | Jun 15, 2018 | Blog, Emphysema, Lung Disease

Emphysema is an chronic obstructive lung disease, falling under the COPD umbrella along with chronic bronchitis. Because this is a progressive illness, there is no cure. Treatments like medication and pulmonary therapy will only address the symptoms. As a result, those with emphysema often experience a declining quality of life with the inability to do the things they once did.
The symptoms of emphysema will depend on how far advanced your disease is. At first, you may have no symptoms, but the first sign is shortness of breath. Over time, you may develop a persistent cough, wheezing, and chest tightness or pain. It will become more difficult to breathe even after little to no activity, or while resting.

How does emphysema make it more difficult to breathe?

Since emphysema is an obstructive disease, that means it’s difficult to fully exhale rather than inhale and it affects lung function in a few different ways.

  • Emphysema forms holes in the lungs’ air sacs, which weakens their internal structure. This eventually means it’s harder to draw in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide.
  • Emphysema makes the airways leading to air sacs less elastic over time. This may cause them to collapse, trapping oxygen within the lungs.
  • If you’re still smoking with emphysema, the cigarette smoke will destroy the cilia — hair-like structures that clear mucus from the lungs — and increase the risk of lung infection. This will, in turn, decrease lung function.

Because emphysema affects your ability to exhale, doctors will test your forced expiratory volume per one second (FEV1), which is the amount of air you are physically able to forcibly expel in the span of a second. Based on the results, doctors will be able to place your emphysema in one of four stages:

  • Stage 1: Very mild, FEV1 80 percent or more of normal
  • Stage 2: Moderate, FEV1 between 50 and 80 percent of normal
  • Stage 3: Severe, FEV1 between 30 and 50 percent of normal
  • Stage 4: Very severe, FEV1 less than 30 percent of normal or stage 3 with low blood oxygen levels.

Cellular therapy helps treat emphysema

Cellular therapy is a regenerative treatment option that addresses the underlying cause of emphysema instead of just its symptoms. Cellular therapy is not a cure for emphysema, but many patients have seen improved quality of life and reported breathing easier after cellular treatment. Cellular therapy uses a patient’s own cells to promote natural healing within the lungs. For more information on cellular therapy as treatment for emphysema, contact the Lung Health Institute today at (866) 313-5712.

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