What Is Emphysema? A Basic Overview

by | May 13, 2019 | Emphysema

People with emphysema almost always have to deal with shortness of breath. This primary symptom develops because of damage to the air sacs in the lungs, which are essential to the breathing process. Millions of Americans live with emphysema, and if you or a loved one are among them, you know about the negative effects it can have on your quality of life.
As part of our commitment to patient-centered care and education, we want to help you learn more about emphysema, including how it affects the lungs and what the potential treatment options are.

Emphysema and Disrupted Lung Functioning

It’s common knowledge that our lungs help us breathe, but understanding the actual process can also help you understand how emphysema affects lung health. Specifically, the lungs transfer oxygen from the air into the bloodstream. The lungs then expel waste from our bodies by exhaling carbon dioxide. This exchange occurs in millions of tiny expandable air sacs called alveoli.
The alveoli are extremely thin and grouped into tight clusters. When emphysema occurs, the linings of the alveoli rupture and cause multiple smaller air sacs to merge into a larger air space. Breathing is still possible after emphysema develops, but it is severely disrupted.

How Emphysema Causes Symptoms

If you have emphysema, less oxygen is transferred to the blood due to the decreased surface area and more carbon dioxide-rich air remains trapped in the lungs when you breathe out. This condition is what leads to the primary symptom of shortness of breath.
Other emphysema symptoms are related to decreased oxygen levels in the blood and can include:

  • Cyanosis, which is a term for a bluish tint that can occur in the lips and fingertips
  • General fatigue
  • Mental fogginess
  • Anxiety, due to the brain being deprived of oxygen

Along with chronic bronchitis, emphysema is one of the primary lung conditions now being diagnosed as COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Many emphysema sufferers will also have a persistent cough, which is a sign of bronchitis.


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How to Find Relief From Emphysema

There are many causes of emphysema, from air pollution to working in a poorly ventilated environment where fumes are present. However, the vast majority of emphysema cases are tobacco-related. If a patient is still a cigarette smoker upon diagnosis of this condition, the first step in treatment should always be quitting smoking. Nutritional counseling, pulmonary rehabilitation, oxygen supplementation, bronchodilators and steroid medication are also typical treatment options.

Lung Health Institute offers an innovative form of treatment for emphysema and other forms of COPD with our regenerative cellular therapy. We can use your own blood cells to help you restore function to the lungs and help you find relief from common symptoms of emphysema.

We want to help you get back to the healthy, active lifestyle you’ve been missing. Take the next step to find relief. Contact one of our patient coordinators today for more information or to schedule a free consultation.

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