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What Is Affected By Emphysema?

Emphysema is a pulmonary disease characterized by defective air sacs that lose elasticity and unable the expulsion of air when an individual breathes out. Emphysema is one of the chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. The condition is progressive in nature and with time causes the air sacs to break down and in turn arrest the used air in the lungs. One of the causes of the condition includes the person’s own immune system and the substances it produces to fight off infections. Further, individuals who develop emphysema are in some cases genetically predisposed to such pulmonary problems but more often the environmental factors are responsible for its occurrence. The most prominent cause of emphysema and most other chronic lung problems is smoking. The illness is often not diagnosed on time but rather the person experiences symptoms of bronchitis or asthma. Coughing is the common signs of all three problems but once it becomes chronic it is clear that more serious damage is produced. The disease takes years to advance and it manifests itself through periodic shortness of breath that might interfere with daily activities. It becomes difficult to perform physical activities such as riding a bike or even walking for slightly longer distances than usual. When emphysema progresses breathing requires subsequent effort and most previously enjoyed activities become impossible to engage in. In some cases the person is likely to interpret the changes as cardiac problems and seek help once the shortness of breath starts to inconvenience them. Nevertheless, emphysema is the type of illness that puts a severe strain on the heart as it makes it difficult for the blood to pass through the inflexible lungs. As a result the heart has to pump harder to keep the respiratory tract going, which could result in heart diseases.

What Causes Emphysema?

The exact causes are unclear but risk factors have been identified, and so have the patterns of development emphysema takes. Clinical trials reveal that men are affected more often than women, and that individuals over 50 who have been smoking for a long time are particularly vulnerable. The instances of women that fall prey to the condition are increasing as more and more females are becoming long term smokers. Environmental factors that contribute to the development of the condition include air pollution as well as unhealthy working conditions.

Signs and Symptoms

Smokers tend to experience a unique kind of cough that reveals air sacs filled with mucus. The obstruction of the airways manifests itself through a mild shortness of breath. The two constitute the symptoms of many different lung problems so diagnosing the condition might sometimes take time. Other related signs include chronic feelings of tiredness and loss of energy accompanied by weight loss. However, emphysema develops relatively quietly and once the first signs appear it is highly probable that the patient has lost more than 50 percent of lung function. Losing the lung’s natural ability to function is a regular process of aging, but those who smoke and suffer from chronic respiratory problems are deprived of it much earlier than the general population. One of the health consequences of long term emphysema include lower levels of oxygen in the blood followed by increased levels of carbon dioxide.

Diagnosis and Treatment

In order to properly diagnose emphysema medical care professionals administer image scanning tests and lung function tests. Image scans that reveal problems include X-Rays and CAT scans. The most often used lung function test is called spirometry, and it is employed for diagnosing all chronic pulmonary obstructive disorders. Blood tests are often administered as well to measure the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Spirometry is administered relatively easily and it constitutes blowing into a tube as hard as possible for a couple of times to measure the ability to exhale. As far as the treatment goes, quitting smoking is known to produce some relief of symptoms as the airways are clearer. It is also advised that the person stays away from polluted areas. Physical exercise plays an important part in emphysema treatment as it can increase the strength of abdominal muscles that help in breathing. Changes in lifestyle are often required, while the combination of healthy living and medications proves the most efficacious. It is also recommended that affected persons get annual flu vaccines to avoid infections of the respiratory tract. When it comes to medications that are used, inhalators are often prescribed to aid in breathing by expanding the air sacs. In rare cases of advanced emphysema the individual might be unable to breathe so supplemental oxygen would be provided. Getting involved in an exercise programs increases the lung capacity and leads to fewer or less intense episodes of shortness of breath which in turn makes everyday activities easier to carry out. If it is more convenient for the patient to work out at home choosing the right type of equipment and exercising regularly will produce the desired effects.

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