COPD is a kind of emphysema (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). COPD refers to a collection of lung disorders that make breathing difficult and worsen over time. Chronic bronchitis is the other major kind of COPD. The majority of persons with COPD have both emphysema and chronic bronchitis, but the severity of each form varies.
Emphysema is a lung disease that damages the air sacs. These sacs are normally elastic or stretchy. Each air sac, like a little balloon, fills up with air when you breathe in. The air sacs deflate and the air escapes as you exhale.
The walls between many of the air sacs in the lungs are destroyed by emphysema. The air sacs lose their structure and become floppy as a result of this. The injury can also disrupt the walls of the air sacs, resulting in fewer and larger air sacs rather than a vast number of small ones. This makes it more difficult for your lungs to transfer oxygen into your body and carbon dioxide out.
What are the causes of emphysema?
Long-term exposure to irritants that harm your lungs and airways is the most common cause of emphysema. Cigarette smoke is the leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Tobacco smoke from a pipe, cigar, or another sort of tobacco can also cause emphysema, especially if inhaled.
Emphysema can be exacerbated by exposure to other inhaled irritants. Secondhand smoking, air pollution, and chemical fumes or specks of dust from the environment or job are examples of these.
Rarely, a genetic disorder known as alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency can contribute to the development of emphysema.
Who is susceptible to emphysema?
The following are some of the risk factors for emphysema:
- Smoking. This is the most significant risk factor. Emphysema affects up to 75% of those who smoke or used to smoke.
- Long-term exposure to various lung irritants from the environment or job, such as secondhand smoke, air pollution, and chemical fumes, and dust.
- Age. When emphysema symptoms first appear, most persons are at least 40 years old.
- Genetics. This includes the hereditary disorder alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. Smokers with emphysema are also more prone to develop the disease if they have a family history of COPD.
What are some of the signs and symptoms of emphysema?
You may have no symptoms or only moderate symptoms at first. Your symptoms will likely get more severe as the condition progresses. They may include the following:
- Coughing or wheezing on a regular basis
- A cough that creates a significant amount of mucous
- Breathlessness, especially with vigorous exercise
- When you breathe, you make a whistling or squeaky sound.
- A feeling of heaviness in your chest
- Emphysema patients are more susceptible to respiratory infections including colds and the flu. Emphysema can cause weight loss, lower-muscle weakness, and swelling in your ankles, feet, or legs in extreme cases.
What are the emphysema treatments?
Emphysema has no known cure. Treatments, on the other hand, can help alleviate symptoms, reduce disease progression, and increase your capacity to keep active. There are various medicines available to prevent or treat the disease’s consequences. The following are some of the treatments:
Changes in one’s lifestyle, such as
- If you are a smoker, you should consider stopping. This is the most critical phase in emphysema treatment.
- Avoiding secondhand smoke and areas where other lung irritants could be inhaled.
- Inquire with your doctor about an eating plan that will suit your nutritional requirements. Also inquire as to how much physical exercise you are capable of. Physical activity can improve your overall health by strengthening the muscles that help you breathe.
- Bronchodilators, for example, are medicines that relax the muscles surrounding your airways. This aids in the opening of your airways and facilitates breathing. Inhalers are used to administer most bronchodilators. The inhaler may also contain medicines to alleviate inflammation in more severe situations.
- Vaccines against influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia, because persons with emphysema are more likely to have significant complications from these infections.
- If you have a bacterial or viral lung infection, you should take antibiotics.
- If you have severe emphysema and low blood oxygen levels, you should consider oxygen therapy. You can improve your breathing using oxygen therapy. You may require additional oxygen all of the time or only at specific moments.
- Pulmonary rehabilitation is a program that helps patients with chronic respiratory issues improve their quality of life. It may consist with
- A workout routine
- Training in disease management
- Nutritional guidance
- Psychological help is available.
- Surgery is normally reserved for those who have severe symptoms that have not improved with medication. There are operations to be performed.
- Damaged lung tissue should be removed.
- When air sacs are destroyed, huge air gaps (bullae) can occur. The bullae might make it difficult to breathe.
- Transplant your lungs. If you have severe emphysema, this may be a possibility.
If you have emphysema, knowing when and where to get treatment for your symptoms is critical. If you experience severe symptoms, such as problems breathing or speaking, you should seek immediate medical attention. If your symptoms are worsening or you have signs of an infection, such as a fever, contact your doctor.
Is it possible to prevent emphysema?
Because smoking is the leading cause of emphysema, quitting is the best way to avoid it. Secondhand smoke, air pollution, chemical fumes, and dust are all lung irritants that should be avoided.