What is Emphysema?
Emphysema is one of the major obstructive lung diseases under the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) umbrella. This lung condition gradually destroys the air sacs in the lungs, making it progressively more difficult to breathe. The tiny cluster-like air sacs in the lungs are responsible for bringing oxygen to the bloodstream. As emphysema progresses, the inner walls of the air sacs form holes, weakening their internal structure. The disease deters oxygen from reaching the bloodstream. Emphysema also destroys the elasticity of the airways that lead to the air sacs. As a result, the air sacs collapse, trapping oxygen in the lungs. Sufferers of emphysema constantly struggle to breathe.
Emphysema is a progressive condition that worsens over time. While there is no cure for this condition, there are treatment options available that can help reduce the symptoms so you can gain back some of the quality of life you lost.
The best way to treat emphysema is to identify the symptoms and diagnose the condition early so you can begin treatment as soon as possible. If you suspect that you have emphysema, take a moment to read through the symptoms and other information about this condition, and then contact our team to schedule a free consultation about the treatment options available to you.
Symptoms of emphysema
Emphysema symptoms can vary from patient to patient, but they almost always include shortness of breath due to the lack of oxygen in the lungs. As the inflammation in the lungs worsens, the airways are obstructed and the oxygen cannot reach the bloodstream. This can cause a number of symptoms, including:
- Chronic cough
- Shortness of breath
- Frequent respiratory infections, sometimes that lead to hospitalization
- Blueness of the lips or fingernail beds from lack of oxygen
- Chronic fatigue
- Excessive mucus
These symptoms of emphysema are the first indicators that you may have this condition. If you are experiencing any or all of these symptoms, you should contact our doctor immediately to schedule an appointment. Early detection is the key to treating your emphysema, and some treatments may even help slow the progression of your condition.
Causes of emphysema
There are several factors that can cause emphysema to develop. Typical to most inflammatory lung conditions, emphysema is often caused by habitual smoking. The harmful chemicals breathed in from cigarettes can irritate the lungs, causing inflammation and scar tissue to develop. As this worsens with time, the symptoms of chronic cough and shortness of breath may appear.
Because emphysema has not been linked to any hereditary factors, doctors contribute this condition to lifestyle choices. Smokers are among the most common to develop emphysema, followed by people who work with harmful dust and chemicals.
Other factors may include:
- Gender – Historically, men had developed emphysema more often than females. Starting in 2011, women have reported a higher rate of emphysema diagnosis than men.
- Age – Older people are at a higher risk for developing emphysema. Emphysema is a progressive disease, which worsens over time and as you age, your physical health begins to decline. As a result of these two factors, older individuals are more likely to develop the disease.
If you have been experiencing symptoms of emphysema, and you have made lifestyle choices that contribute to the development of this disease, you should schedule an appointment with you doctor to confirm an emphysema diagnosis.
The diagnosis process varies, but almost always includes two or more of the following steps:
- A conversation about your medical history and lifestyle choices
- A physical exam where you doctor listens to your lungs
- A pulmonary function test that requires you to blow into a mouthpiece that measures your lung strength and capacity
- X-ray tests
- Lab tests and blood work
Once your doctor confirms a diagnosis for emphysema, you two can work together to create a treatment plan that is right for you.
Treatment options for emphysema
Once you have a confirmed diagnosis of emphysema, you can begin to research the treatment options available to you. In most cases, doctors will recommend traditional treatments, such as medications, inhalers and oxygen therapy. These treatments for emphysema are great at reducing symptoms when they appear, but they are not preventative in nature.
At the Lung Institute, we offer cellular therapy treatment that helps to reduce the occurrence of symptoms by treating your condition at its source. By using cells harvested from your own blood, we can help target and reduce inflammation in the lungs, so you can Breathe EasierTM.
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