What Is Emphysema?

What Is Emphysema

Emphysema is a lung disease in which the air sacs within the lungs, called alveoli, are damaged to the extent that they can no longer help to move air in the lungs. If your loved one has emphysema, it’s difficult for their body to get rid of carbon dioxide and to get oxygen into their body. When they exhale, old air becomes trapped leaving no room for fresh, oxygen-rich air to enter. As a result, they may often feel as though they can’t get enough air.

Symptoms of Emphysema

The two main hallmarks of emphysema are a chronic cough and shortness of breath.

Symptoms also include:

Causes of Emphysema

The main causation of emphysema is long-term exposure to airborne irritants. These irritants include:

  • Tobacco or marijuana smoke
  • Air pollution
  • Chemical fumes
  • Dust

Emphysema Risk Factors

There are lots of factors that increase the risk of emphysema. They include:

Smoking: Smokers are more likely to develop emphysema than non-smokers. This includes smoking cigars and pipes. The risk increases with the number of years and the amount of tobacco an individual smokes.

Exposure to secondhand smoke: Even if one doesn’t smoke themselves, if they are exposed to secondhand smoke, they are inadvertently inhaling the smoke which can increase their risk of emphysema.

Exposure to fumes or dust: Some people are exposed to fumes or dust in their work environment. This includes fumes from chemicals or dust from cotton, grain, or wood.

Exposure to pollution: Breathing pollutants, both indoor and outdoor, increases the risk of emphysema.

Age: Most people experience signs of illness between 40 and 60 years old.

How is Emphysema Diagnosed?

If the doctor suspects emphysema they may recommend tests including:

Imaging tests: A chest X-ray can help diagnose emphysema. This X-ray can also show how advanced the disease is.

Lab tests: Blood drawn from an artery can determine how well the lungs are transferring oxygen into the bloodstream.

Lung function test: A lung function test is non-invasive and measures how much air the lungs can hold and how well the air flows in and out of the lungs. One of the most common tests uses a simple instrument called a Spirometer, which you blow into.

Emphysema Treatment Options

Emphysema cannot be cured, but treatments can help relieve and control the symptoms. Treatment options for emphysema include:

1. Medications

Due to its nature, emphysema doesn’t respond to medication. It’s very likely, however, that your loved one has emphysema in combination with other lung issues that fall under the umbrella of COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

There are medications that help to control COPD symptoms, and it’s possible that your doctor will prescribe one or more of them. These types of medications, usually bronchodilators, inhaled steroids and antibiotics, help to open the breathing passages to prevent constricted breathing.

2. Pulmonary Rehabilitation

There are medications that help to control COPD symptoms, and it’s possible that your doctor will prescribe one or more of them. These types of medications, usually bronchodilators, inhaled steroids and antibiotics, help to open the breathing passages to prevent constricted breathing.

People with lung problems such as emphysema often experience depression or anxiety because they fear being unable to breathe and they often cannot do all of the things that they once loved to do. Pulmonary rehabilitation helps them to get their lungs as strong as possible so they can reclaim the life that they love.

3. Oxygen Therapy

Oxygen therapy covers quite a few different types of treatment. Very few people need long-term oxygen therapy day and night. This usually occurs with extreme lung damage. Most often, people who need oxygen therapy need it periodically during the day, during physical activity, or to help relieve a sudden shortness of breath. Your loved one might be self-conscious about oxygen therapy at first, so you might need to work with them to overcome this.

4. Quit Smoking

If your loved one has been diagnosed with emphysema and still smokes, that needs to change as quickly as possible. Smoking worsens the ability to breathe and damages the lungs more rapidly. Quitting smoking is really tough, though, especially after smoking for many years.

Cutting back is even helpful, so don’t look at their inability to quit right away as a failure. The doctor and care team have lots of tools and advice that can help you work with your loved one to give up smoking for good.

Emphysema is very serious, but you can help your loved one manage the symptoms.

Emphysema Complications

If left untreated emphysema can result in serious complications including:

Collapsed lung: This is a life-threatening condition when it occurs in an individual with emphysema because their lungs are already compromised.

Holes in the lung: Holes in the lung, also known as giant bullae, can make it difficult for the lung to expand which can cause infection.

Heart problems: Emphysema can increase the pressure in the arteries that connect the lungs to the heart. This pressure can cause areas of the heart to expand and weaken.

Contact Sonas for Home Health Care Services

If you or an aging loved one are considering home health care services in Florida, contact the caring staff at Sonas Home Health Care. Call today (888) 592-5855.

Sources
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/emphysema/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20355561
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/emphysema/symptoms-causes/syc-20355555
https://www.webmd.com/lung/copd/what-is-emphysema

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