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Know the basics

What is emphysema?

Emphysema is a lung disease that causes shortness of breath. It is one of the most common form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Emphysema is mostly caused by smoking.

How common is emphysema?

Emphysema commonly affects people who are smokers. It can be partly managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of emphysema?

The common symptoms of emphysema are:

  • Difficulty breathing;
  • Coughing are the first signs;
  • Tiredness;
  • Barrel-shaped chest (a round, bulging chest that looks like a barrel);
  • Cyanosis (a bluish tint to your skin, as well as your fingernails and fingertips);
  • Decreased immune system, putting you at a higher risk for lung infection.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • You have short breath for several month that get worse and prevent you from your daily activities.
  • There are blue or gray areas of skin on your lips or nails.
  • You lose focus easily or unable to stay mentally alert.

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Know the causes

What causes emphysema?

There are some reasons that cause emphysema:

  • Tobacco or marijuana smoke;
  • Air pollutants;
  • Industrial fumes;
  • In some rare cases, emphysema is caused by the lack of alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency protein which protects the lungs.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for emphysema?

There are many risk factors for emphysema, such as:

  • Smoking: this is the main cause of emphysema. The more tobacco and the longer time you are using, the higher the risks of emphysema are.
  • Aging: many people at the age of 40 and more are likely to experience lungs damage which causing emphysema.
  • Exposure to industrial and chemical fumes or dust also put you at risk of emphysema.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is emphysema diagnosed?

Your doctor may want to know about your medical history; or if you have ever smoked; or if you are living or working in a polluted environment.

Other diagnosis tests include:

  • Imaging tests such as CT (computerized tomography) scan and X-ray to take a look at your lungs;
  • Blood tests to check for the working of bloodstream in your lungs;
  • Pulse oximetry to measure the blood’s oxygen;
  • Lung function tests, called spirometry, which uses a device named spirometer to measure the air in your lung that is inhaled and exhaled;
  • Arterial blood gas tests to measure the blood amount and carbon dioxide in your blood;
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) to test for any disease in your heart.

How is emphysema treated?

There is no cure for emphysema. However, several following treatments can help to prevent the symptoms that worsen your condition:

  • If you are a smoker, you have to stop smoking immediately.
  • Medications such as bronchodilators, steroids, or antibiotics can be prescribed by your doctor to reduce coughing, relieve shortness of breath and prevent bacterial infections.
  • Therapies: pulmonary rehabilitation, nutrition therapy or an oxygen supplements will improve your breathing problems and help you manage your weight as you may experience sudden change in weight from emphysema.
  • Surgeries: lung volume reduction surgery is a procedure in which your doctor will cut out the damaged tissues in your lungs to help them work more effectively and relieve shortness of breath. Lung transplantation can be required if your condition is way more serious.
  • You may be asked to have influenza and pneumococcal vaccination to protect against respiratory infection.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage emphysema?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with emphysema:

  • Avoid smoking: try to stay away from smoking by doing other activities. This will not only to protect you from getting emphysema but also to improve your overall health.
  • Avoid environmental pollutants such as fumes from chemical factory and
  • Exercise every day and keep a balance diet to improve your health and your lung capacity.
  • Prevent yourself from infections. You can use prescribed medications from your doctor and wear protective clothing when you have to directly contact with a person with a flu or cold.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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