Overview of Emphysema

Emphysema is a lung disease in which you would feel shortness of breath. It is a respiratory disease, in which millions of tiny air sacs get damaged or ruptured. This causes the lungs to lose their natural elasticity. 

Emphysema is a progressive disease and can get worse with time if not treated effectively immediately. Smoking is one of the major causes of this disease. Emphysema is the second most common condition of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Although it is a progressive disease, it can be prevented from getting much worse by quitting smoking. Some common symptoms of this disease are shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, and coughing with mucus. 


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Signs and Symptoms of Emphysema

Some people can have this respiratory disease without actually knowing it. Usually, a person won’t even notice the change in breathing till smoking a pack of cigarettes daily for a straight 20 years. 

However, with the passage of time, breathing issues can cause hindrances in accomplishing daily tasks like house working or walking short distances. You might also feel the constant inability to catch your breath. 

Some common symptoms of Emphysema are: 

  • Wheezing 
  • Coughing - in the case of bronchitis, coughing with phlegm 
  • Fatigue -  constantly feeling tired, exhausted, and lethargic  
  • Morning headaches 
  • Sudden weight loss 
  • Tightness in chest
  • Swelling on ankles 
  • Raid heartbeat
  • Difficulty falling asleep 
  • Shorter concentration span 

Types of Emphysema

Causes of Emphysema

Causes of emphysema are:

  • Smoking is the main cause of emphysema. 
  • If you work in an area exposed to higher levels of air pollution, chemical fumes, or lung irritants, you have a higher chance of contracting emphysema.  

In some rare cases, having a family history of emphysema can also cause you to have this lung disorder.


Risk Factors of Emphysema

Usually, individuals aged 65 years and above are more vulnerable to this respiratory disorder. 



Healthy lifestyle choices and getting away from secondhand smoking are the main prevention tips for Emphysema. 



As soon as you feel any of the above-mentioned symptoms, consult your general physician. Your doctor will begin your treatment you asking a couple of questions about your medical and family history. 

Some tests that are performed to confirm the presence s of emphysema are: 

  • Imaging Tests - chest scans like X-rays and CT scan to determine the state of the lungs. 
  • Blood Tests - to determine to what extent the lungs are functioning. 
  • Pulse Oximetry - to determine the oxygen levels in your blood.
  • Lung Functioning Test - these tests involve blowing air into a device called a spirometer. This test measures how much air your lungs can breathe in and out. 
  • Electrocardiogram - ECG test to rule out other heart diseases. 

Your doctor may perform some additional tests as well. 

Treatment of Emphysema | When to Consult a Doctor

The purpose of the treatment of Emphysema is to reduce the impact of this disease. There is no cure for this disease but rather treatments to stop this condition from getting worse.

  • Quit smoking -  The most important step in this regard is to quit smoking. You could either go cold turkey or use some medication to quit smoking. 
  • Medication - Usually, medication like antibiotics, steroids, or bronchodilators is prescribed by doctors for the treatment of Emphysema. 
  • Pulmonary Therapy - Pulmonary therapy can also help you in this regard, walking shorter distances, and having adequate exercise and breathing exercises can also help you. 
  • Oxygen Therapy - Oxygen therapy can also be a good option.
  • Surgery - In more severe cases of emphysema where medication and therapies do not provide many results, lung reduction surgery or lung transplant is also performed. But this surgery is done only in the most severe cases.  

In case you exhibit any concerning signs and symptoms of emphysema, consult a certified pulmonologist as soon as possible.