What is Emphysema?

Emphysema is an irreversible respiratory ailment in which the air sacs of the lungs become damaged or swollen and cannot function properly. This damage in turn limits the amount of air that the lungs can hold. Emphysema can make it difficult to breathe, and can be life-threatening.

Causes of Emphysema

Emphysema is most commonly caused by long-term exposure to airborne pollutants, including smoke from cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and other sources. It can also be caused by exposure to certain types of industrial chemicals or pollutants.

Symptoms of Emphysema

The most common symptoms of emphysema are shortness of breath, wheezing, and chronic coughing. Other signs and symptoms may include fatigue, chest pain, and a blue tinge to the skin due to a lack of oxygen.

Treatments for Emphysema

Treatment for emphysema depends on the severity of the condition, and may include quitting smoking, taking medications to reduce inflammation and improve air flow, and using supplemental oxygen. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary.

Complications of Emphysema

Emphysema can lead to a number of complications, including respiratory infections, severe respiratory distress, and ultimately respiratory failure. It can also cause a chronic decrease in energy, difficulty breathing, and great difficulty performing physical activities. In some cases, it can lead to pneumonia or other serious health problems.

Living with Emphysema

It is possible to live with emphysema, and there are steps that can be taken to improve quality of life. Quitting smoking is the most important step, as smoking further damages the lungs and can make breathing even more difficult. Additionally, avoiding second-hand smoke, cleaning the air in the home, avoiding certain activities (e.g. strenuous exercise), and taking medications to reduce inflammation and improve air flow can all be beneficial.