Emphysema : Causes-Symptoms-Diagnosis-Treatment

 What is Emphysema?

Emphysema is a lung condition that makes you short of breath. In people with emphysema, the air sacs in the lungs (alveoli) are damaged. Over time, the inner walls of the air sacs weaken and break - creating larger air spaces instead of many small ones. This reduces the surface area of the lungs, making it harder to breathe. The lungs take in oxygen and this affects the amount of oxygen that reaches your bloodstream.

What is Emphysema?

When you exhale, the damaged alveoli don't work properly and old air is trapped, leaving no room for fresh oxygen-rich air to enter.

Many people with emphysema also have chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is an inflammation of the tubes that carry air to your lungs (bronchial tubes) which leads to a persistent cough.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a condition that includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Smoking is the main cause of COPD. Treatment can slow the progression of COPD, but it cannot undo the damage caused by smoking.

  1. Respiratory system

  1. Nasal cavity

  2. Pharynx

  3. Larynx

  4. Trachea

  5. Bronchioles and smaller air passages

  6. Lungs

  7. Muscles of breathing

Medical terms

  • Emphysema may be an unwellness of the lungs that sometimes develops after a few years of smoking. together with bronchial asthma and bronchitis, {emphysema|pulmonary emphysema|respiratory unwellness|respiratory illness|respiratory disorder} belongs to a bunch of respiratory organ diseases referred to as chronic preventive pulmonic disease (COPD).

  • Emphysema may be an unwellness of the lungs that sometimes develops after a few years of smoking. each bronchitis and {emphysema|pulmonary emphysema|respiratory unwellness|respiratory illness|respiratory disorder} belongs to a bunch of respiratory organ diseases referred to as chronic preventive pulmonic disease (COPD). Once it develops, respiratory illness can’t be reversed. This is often why not smoking or stopping smoking is incredibly vital.

  • Emphysema may be a condition that involves injury to the walls of the air sacs (alveoli) of the respiratory organ. Alveoli squares measure little, thin-walled, terribly fragile air sacs settled in clusters at the tip of the cartilaginous tube deep within the lungs. There is a square measure concerning three hundred million alveoli in traditional lungs. As you respire air, the alveoli stretch, drawing O in and transporting it to the blood. After you exhale, the alveoli shrink, forcing greenhouse emission out of the body.

  • When respiratory illness develops, the alveoli and respiratory organ tissue square measure are destroyed. With this injury, the alveoli cannot support the cartilaginous tube tubes. The tubes collapse Associate in Nursing cause an “obstruction” (a blockage), that traps air within the lungs. an excessive amount of air cornered within the lungs will offer some patients a barrel-chested look. Also, as a result of their square measure, fewer alveoli, less O are able to get into the blood.

  • of emphysema is smoking The smoke in cigarettes and other tobacco products contains gasses that can irritate your lungs causing them to swell up Cigarette smoke also damages lung tissues and decreases the amount of oxygen that gets into your bloodstream Over time this damage makes it difficult for you to breathe Emphysema also can be caused by breathing air that has high levels of pollution or secondhand smoke a family tendency toward emphysema and genetics diseases such as Alpha1-antitrypsin deficiency or cystic fibrosis

  • Causes Emphysema is a chronic lung disease that prevents the alveoli in the lungs from working properly The alveoli are tiny air sacs about the size of a baby's fingernail where oxygen enters your bloodstream and carbon dioxide exits your blood to be exhaled When you have emphysema your lungs lose their elasticity over time and have difficulty expanding as much as they should during inspiration (breathing in) This means less oxygen gets into the blood and more carbon dioxide stays in the blood As a result people with emphysema usually breathe faster than normal to get.

Over 3 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with emphysema. Over 11 million Americans have COPD. Emphysema is most common in men between the ages of 50 and 70.

Symptoms Emphysema 

You may not experience any signs or symptoms until years after you have emphysema. The main symptom of emphysema is shortness of breath, which usually starts gradually.

If you are short of breath, you may start avoiding activities that make you short of breath. Eventually, emphysema will cause shortness of breath even when you're at rest.

When to see a doctor

If you have been having shortness of breath for several months, even if it is getting worse, see a doctor. Don't ignore the problem by thinking it is due to age or being out of shape. Go to the doctor immediately. If you want to make a project look good, you need to follow some basic guidelines.

  • You can't breathe very well, which means you can't climb stairs.

  • When you work out, your lips or fingernails can turn blue or gray from being in the sun for a long time.

  • You're not mentally alert

Causes Emphysema 

The main cause of emphysema is long-term exposure to irritants in the air, including:

  • Tobacco smoke

  • Marijuana smoke

  • Air pollution

  • Chemical fumes and dust

Emphysema is rarely caused by a deficiency in a protein that protects the lung's elastic structures. It's called alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency emphysema.

Risk factors Emphysema 

The factors that increase your risk of developing emphysema include: 1) Having a family history of emphysema 2) Being over the age of 50 3) Having asthma 4) Being African American or having black skin color

  • Smoking.Cigarette smokers are more likely to develop emphysema, but cigar and pipe smokers are also at risk. The greater the number of years and amount of tobacco smoked, the higher the risk.

  • Age.Tobacco-related emphysema usually begins to develop slowly over a period of years, but most people experience symptoms between the ages of 40 and 60.

  • Exposure to secondhand smoke.Secondhand smoke, also known as passive or environmental tobacco smoke, is smoke that you accidentally inhale from someone else's cigarette or cigar. Being around secondhand smoke increases your risk of developing emphysema.

  • Occupational exposure to fumes or dust.If you breathe fumes from certain chemicals or dust from materials that contain grain cottonwood or mining products, you are at a greater risk of developing emphysema. This risk is even greater if you smoke.

  • How long can you live after being diagnosed with emphysema?
    Emphysema is a slowing down of the lung's ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide This condition eventually causes breathing to become difficult and labored necessitating supplemental oxygen treatment Eventually emphysema can lead to death Emphysema cannot be cured; however it can be managed with medication or surgery to assist with breathing as well as smoking cessation.

    Can you stop emphysema getting worse?

    Emphysema is a chronic lung disease that slowly replaces the elastic fibers in your lung tissue with scar tissue The result of this tissue damage is reduced airflow which can make it difficult for you to breathe People with emphysema thus find themselves physically unable to perform simple activities like walking up stairs or jogging It is a progressive disease that cannot be cured at this time but there are several treatments available that can help relieve your symptoms and improve the quality of your life.

    What foods to avoid if you have emphysema?

    Smoking is one of the main causes for emphysema But it can also be caused by long-term exposure to toxic fumes chemicals and dusts in the work environment or other similar pollutants you breathe in on a regular basis Other respiratory diseases such as chronic bronchitis asthma and pneumonia may also lead to emphysema Nonetheless smoking remains the leading cause of lung disease resulting in almost half of all deaths related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

    Is emphysema considered a terminal illness?

    Emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is irreversible and it causes progressive lung damage Emphysema did not used to be considered a terminal illness because there was no known cure However that has changed in recent years Medical advances have led to better treatment options for people with emphysema who want to live longer lives Most patients still die within five years of being diagnosed however; however some research suggests those who maintain the best quality of life may live anywhere from two to 10 years after diagnosis.

    Which is worse, COPD or emphysema?

    Emphysema and COPD are both lung diseases that lead to chronic breathing impairment Further they share similar symptoms – including shortness of breath wheezing and coughing However COPD is a diagnosed condition while emphysema is just a symptom of other underlying issues that cause the lungs to become weak and lose elasticity Having said that experts believe it's far better to treat COPD early on before it becomes emphysema so that you can reduce or delay the risk of developing permanent lung damage.

    At what stage of emphysema do you need oxygen?

    As emphysema progresses the lungs lose their elasticity and gas exchange becomes increasingly abnormal During this phase which can last from months to years people with COPD typically experience chronic shortness of breath that worsens over time either when they perform routine daily activities such as walking or climbing stairs or during episodes of activity or exercise.
    Indoor and outdoor pollution can harm your health.Breathing in indoor pollutants, such as fumes from heating fuel or car exhaust, increases your risk of developing emphysema.

Complications Emphysema

People who have emphysema are also more likely to develop other respiratory problems, such as bronchitis.

  • Collapsed lung (pneumothorax).A collapsed lung can be life-threatening in people who have severe emphysema, as their lungs are already struggling to function. This is rare but serious, happening only in a few people.

  • Heart problems.The pressure in the arteries that connect the heart and lungs can increase with emphysema. This can lead to cor pulmonale, a condition in which a section of the heart enlarges and becomes weakened.

  • Large holes in the lungs (bullae).Pneumothorax is a condition in which air enters the lungs. Large pneumothoraces, or blisters on the outside of the lung, can be dangerous and can reduce the amount of space available for the lungs to expand.

Prevention Emphysema

Smoking is bad for your health and so is breathing in secondhand smoke. If you do work with chemical fumes or dust, wear a mask to protect your lungs.

Diagnosis Emphysema 

Your doctor will ask about your medical history and perform a physical exam to determine if you have emphysema. Depending on the results of that examination, your doctor may order a variety of tests.

Imaging tests

A chest X-ray can help support a diagnosis of advanced emphysema and rule out other causes of shortness of breath. However, the chest X-ray may also show normal findings if you have emphysema.

A CT scan combines X-ray images taken from many different directions to create cross-sectional views of the inside of organs. CT scans can be helpful for diagnosing emphysema and other lung diseases. You may also have a CT scan if you are a candidate for lung surgery.

Lab tests

Blood taken from an artery in your wrist can be used to determine how well your lungs are helping to transfer oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from your bloodstream.

Lung function tests

This type of test measures how much air your lungs can hold and how well the air flows in and out of them. It can also measure how effectively your lungs deliver oxygen to your bloodstream. A spirometer is a simple instrument that you blow into.

  1. Lung ventilation-perfusion scan

Treatment Emphysema 

Emphysema and COPD cannot be cured, but treatments can help lessen symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.


If you have symptoms that your doctor thinks are severe, he or she may suggest a number of different treatments.

  • Bronchodilators.These drugs can help relieve coughing and shortness of breath by loosening constricted airways.

  • Inhaled steroids.Inhaling corticosteroid drugs as aerosols may reduce inflammation and improve breathing.

  • Antibiotics.If you have an infection like acute bronchitis or pneumonia, antibiotics may be appropriate.


  • Pulmonary rehabilitation.Pulmonary rehabilitation can help you learn breathing exercises and techniques that may reduce your breathlessness and improve your ability to exercise.

  • Nutrition therapy.You will receive advice about proper nutrition. In the early stages of emphysema, many people need to lose weight, while people with late-stage emphysema often need to gain weight.

  • Supplemental oxygen.If you have severe emphysema and low blood oxygen levels, using oxygen regularly at home and when you exercise may provide some relief. Many people use oxygen 24 hours a day. It is usually administered through a narrow tube that fits into your nose.


If you have severe emphysema, your doctor may recommend one or more different types of surgery.This could mean:

  • Lung volume reduction surgery.Surgeons remove small pieces of damaged lung tissue in this procedure. By removing the diseased tissue, the remaining lung tissue will expand and work more efficiently, which will improve breathing.

  • Lung transplant.If you have severe lung damage and other treatments have failed, lung transplantation may be an option.

Lifestyle and home remedies

If you have emphysema, you can take a number of steps to halt its progression and minimize complications:

  • Stop smoking.If you want to improve your health and prevent emphysema from progressing, the best thing you can do is stop smoking. If you need help quitting, consider joining a smoking cessation program. As much as possible, avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.

  • Avoid other respiratory irritants.Polluting particles can come from paint, automobile exhaust, cooking odors, perfumes, and even burning candles and incense. Make sure to change the filters on your furnace and air conditioner regularly to limit exposure.

  • Exercise regularly.Exercising regularly can help improve your lung capacity, even if you have breathing problems.

  • Protect yourself from cold air.When it is cold outside, the air can cause spasms in your bronchial passages, making breathing even more difficult. To warm the air entering your lungs, wear a soft scarf or cold-air mask when you go outside.

  • Get recommended vaccinations.Make sure you get a flu shot and pneumonia vaccinations as recommended by your doctor.

  • Prevent respiratory infections.If you have a cold or the flu, try to avoid direct contact with other people. If you must be around large groups of people, wear a mask, wash your hands often, and carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you.

Coping and support

When people have emphysema, shortness of breath can severely limit their ability to do everyday activities. Many people become withdrawn and depressed.

To help you cope with the changes emphysema has made in your life, you might want to:

  • Express your feelings. Your emphysema may limit some of your activities and have a significant impact on your family's plans and routines. If you and your family are able to talk openly about each other's needs, you will be better positioned to meet the challenges of living with this disease. Be aware of any changes in your health that you can't predict, and be prepared to adjust your life as needed. If you experience changes in your mood and how you relate to others, don't be afraid to seek counseling.

  • Consider a support group.If you have emphysema, you may want to join a support group. Groups can be a good source of information and coping strategies. It can be comforting to spend time with other people who share your situation. If you're interested, you can search for one online. If you are interested in finding support groups for lung health, you could speak to your doctor or check the American Lung Association's website for listings of local and online groups.

Preparing for your appointment

Your first appointment to check for emphysema may be with either your primary doctor or a lung specialist (pulmonologist).

What you can do

Before your appointment, you might want to write down some questions that you want to ask the doctor.

  • Do you smoke cigarettes? How many packs do you smoke each day, and when did you start smoking cigarettes?

  • Do you breathe in the smoke of other people?

  • Do any of your jobs expose you to chemicals or industrial dust?

  • Are any other family members having lung problems?

  • What medications and supplements do you usually take?

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor may ask some of the following questions: -What are your symptoms? -Has anything changed in your lifestyle recently? -Are you experiencing any other unusual symptoms?

  • Do you often cough? If so, when did the coughing start?

  • If you smoke, have you tried to quit?

  • When did you first experience shortness of breath?

  • Do any of your family members have emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)?

  • Does shortness of breath keep you from doing daily tasks?

  • How do you feel when you touch your fingernails or lips and they turn blue?

  • Have you recently gained or lost weight?

General summary

  1. One may be able to control by quitting smoking limiting exposure to secondhand smoke getting regular exercise and a healthy diet

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