What is Emphysema and What Does It Mean for Me?

by | May 30, 2017 | Disease Education, Emphysema, Medical

The path to better health starts here and helps answer the question “what is emphysema?”

What is emphysema? Let’s start here: emphysema is a respiratory condition that describes the gradual breakdown of air sacs within the lungs. It is a one of the primary characteristics of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) along with chronic bronchitis and its presence is used to help classify and diagnose COPD. As a respiratory condition in itself, the development of the condition arises when the inner walls of the aforementioned air sacs form holes, ultimately weakening their structure. This has the effect of limiting the ability of oxygen to reach the bloodstream. As these sacs gradually deflate and collapse, those who have emphysema will, in time, experience significant difficulty in breathing.

Although many environments of poor air quality can negatively affect the lungs, leading to the development of emphysema, the primary cause of emphysema is cigarette smoking. Smoking causes excessive inflammation within the lungs airways, ultimately causing the inner linings of the lungs and their associated organelles to swell and become damaged.

So, what does all that mean for me?

Though a diagnosis of emphysema is far from the end, it can mean a lot in terms of its effects on ongoing quality of life. With your health in mind, the Lung Health Institute is here to delve into the question of What is Emphysema and What Does It Mean for Me? in order to give you a better idea of your current health and options.

What is Emphysema and What to Expect with Emphysema? – General Symptoms

Among the general symptoms of emphysema, you should expect a frequent and persistent cough. Typically called the “smoker’s cough” this cough is actually reflexive, meaning that it’s your body’s natural mechanism in expelling harmful substances from the body.

Among the other symptoms to expect, wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath are common health issues associated with emphysema.

For tips on how to cope with these symptoms, check out are article on Emphysema Symptoms: What They Are and How to Manage Them.

Emphysema Prognosis and Stages – Looking to The Future

When it comes to receiving an initial emphysema diagnosis, the prospect of the future can be hard to imagine. For starters, there is no current cure for emphysema. And in order to diagnose and grasp the severity of your disease, you may be asked to undergo a detailed medical history, various tests as well as other recommended procedures.

Of these tests, one may be a simple pulmonary function test (PFT) to determine your condition as well its severity. Other tests may include a 6-minute walk test to assess your tolerance to exercise as well as chest x-rays, blood tests and CT scans.

From these tests, your emphysema will likely be placed into the following stages:

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

Although the staging system of emphysema is meant to be a general guidepost to disease severity, nobody can truly predict emphysema life expectancy. Rather, doctors use tests and procedures to make general estimates on what to expect regarding future outcomes.

Keep reading for more information on determining your Emphysema Prognosis and Treatment Options.

Emphysema Management Tips – How to Stay Healthy

What is Emphysema and What Does It Mean for Me?

When it comes to emphysema, often the best tips for managing the disease are the most obvious. Here’s a short-list on the next steps to breathing better and staying healthy.

  • Quit Smoking– We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, quitting is the best thing you can do for your life right now and moving forward.
  • Avoid Lung Irritants– Whether its second-hand smoke, poor working environments, pollen in the air or pollution, keep your environment pure and clean for your lung health.
  • Vaccinate, Vaccinate, Vaccinate- the worst thing you can do for your emphysema is to expose it to the influenza virus. Get immunized at the start of flu-season every year.
  • Keep Your Living Space Clean- this entry goes hand-in-hand with avoiding lung irritants. Keep smoke out of your house and don’t do anything excessive (like grilling indoors) to cause the development of new lung irritants from inside your home. Replace your air filters, and be vigilant of mold in moist areas (your bathroom namely)
  • Eat Right and Exercise- this may sound like it’s simple, but for the majority of Americans, maintaining a healthy diet and exercise plan is incredibly However, as hard as it may be, your health depends on it. So, start today at the grocery store and give yourself a quick walk-around the block before dinner. Your heart and lungs will thank you.

For more information and tips on dealing with emphysema, check out our article on 5 Simple Steps to Better Breathing with Emphysema.

Understanding Emphysema and Determining What’s Next

Emphysema can be scary at first to try to deal with, but a diagnosis is far from the end. Although the steps to improve your health can seem difficult and daunting at first, change is possible.

With a few behavioral changes, it’s possible to greatly affect the pronouncement of symptoms within those with COPD, emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis. However, when lifestyle changes fail to improve your quality of life in the way that you may expect, it may be time to consider cellular therapy. Rather than addressing the symptoms of lung disease, cellular therapy may directly affect disease progression and may improve quality of life.

For more information on cellular therapy and what it could mean for your life moving forward, contact us today or call us at 888-745-6697. Our patient coordinators will walk you through our available treatment options and talk through your current health and medical history.

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