Emphysema is a medical term for a progressive lung disease, which belongs to the class of the lung diseases generally called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Those people suffering from this lung disease have to deal with the permanent and irreparable alteration in the anatomy of the lungs, but there are several treatment methods that are available and that are used to slow down the progression of the disease. Heavy smokers are the most susceptible to development of emphysema.
Symptoms of emphysema
The symptoms of this lung disease are not very obvious at the beginning, but along with the progression of the disease, the warning signs start to appear, particularly those such as problematic breathing, shortness of breath, constant cough and wheezing. Chest congestion is also a sign of emphysema.
If the person with this condition continues to smoke after the occurrence of the above mentioned symptoms, the disease progression is accelerated and the symptoms will become intensified. Furthermore, other symptoms are also likely to emerge. In the later stages, the person affected by emphysema develops barrel chest and finds it difficult to perform simple physical activities. Loss of appetite and weight loss are results of the breathing problems when the affected person eats.
Causes of emphysema
When we inhale the air, it travels through the bronchi to the lungs, where the bronchi branches into bronchioles at the end of which are alveoli. Within them the transfer of the oxygen and carbon dioxide is done. When one develops emphysema, the bronchioles become inflamed, which limits the amount of air that travels to the alveoli. Furthermore, the elasticity in the alveoli walls is also reduced due to the inflammation. Gradually, along with the progression of emphysema, the alveoli walls, together with the blood vessels within them, become damaged and as a consequence, less oxygen than it is needed reaches the lungs. The main reasons behind the damaging of the alveoli walls are smoking, air pollutants and insufficiency of the enzyme alpha-1-antitrypsin.
Treatment for emphysema
Those people affected by emphysema should immediately stop smoking and by doing that, they will slow down the advancement of the disease. The medications prescribed to alleviate the symptoms of the disease are bronchodilating medicines, which relieve the shortness of breath. Antibiotics and steroids, as well as the oxygen therapy, are also some of the treatment options related to emphysema, especially for those suffering from asthma ad bronchitis.
Since emphysema can permanently impair the functioning of the lungs, it is important to take certain preventive measures in order to avoid the development of the disease, such as avoiding the polluted air and quitting smoking.