What is emphysema?
Emphysema is a very serious lung disease that is chronic and progressive in nature. The main characteristic of this condition is abnormal enlargement of the air sacs, which results in their decreased elasticity and damage. As for the patients who are at high risk of developing emphysema, are chronic smokers and those who are exposed to toxic and hazardous chemicals are particularly in danger. According to some statistical records, men are more frequently affected than women, particularly those between 35 and 70 years of age. The patients who develop this condition will probably experience a number of breathing problems, especially during exertion, but it is possible that they will develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as well, and the symptoms such as wheezing, cough, tightness in the chest are generally unavoidable.
Can it be treated?
Unfortunately, emphysema is one of the conditions that cannot be cured even when discovered at an early stage. The fact is that this disease is usually diagnosed when a significant part of the lung tissue is damaged, because until then no symptoms are present in the majority of the cases. In a small number of cases, some symptoms might be present, but since the results of X-ray scan usually show normal results, the doctor rarely has a reason to suspect of emphysema unless some other tests (such as spirometry, pulmonary function tests, or blood tests that check the blood levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide, for example) are done. Some methods of treatment that can practically buy the patients more time are available, but none of them can cure the condition.
Life expectancy depends on the stage of the disease, and so far, four stages have been identified. The results of spirometry help in identifying the stage, and when the disease is in the first stage, the patient’s life expectancy is more than four years. As the stages and the symptoms become more severe, life expectancy is shorter. Life expectancy in the last and the most severe stage depends on whether the disease is left undiagnosed (this patient rarely lives more than 2 or 3 years), or if the disease had been diagnosed earlier, there are medications and other methods of treatment that may significantly increase, the life expectancy of the patient.