Emphysema belongs to group of diseases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Smoking is the major cause of emphysema and most of the time the damages done to the lungs are irreversible. Emphysema cannot be cured and only some of the symptoms are treated. Medications and oxygen supplements are effective methods of treating emphysema. Emphysema is a chronic disorder affecting the quality of life for long-term.

How it happens?

As a person smokes, nicotine in the cigar reaches the lungs to cause damage to the air sacs or alveoli. As more and more of nicotine damages the air sacs the soft tissues are destroyed forming big spaces inside. Now air gets trapped in this space leading to enlargement of lungs building more pressure inside (pulmonary hypertension). The air sacs called alveoli are continuously damaged in the lungs leading to shortness of breath. Inner walls of these sacs are weakened and subsequently they will rupture forming a big space inside the lungs.

This will reduce the total area of the lungs which would have a direct effect on oxygen consumption. The lungs may not be able to breathe properly since it cannot get oxygenated air as before. To compensate the loss of oxygen the body automatically increases the breathing rate. After some days or weeks, increased rate of breathing is not enough to maintain the required oxygen consumption. Subsequently the lungs get narrowed leading to pulmonary hypertension.

Symptoms :

There are lots of people who may not have any symptoms for years together but still the process of emphysema is slowly happening inside the lungs. It causes shortness of breath and choking. But even at this stage the person will avoid doing certain activities that require more of oxygen and hence he may ignore the symptom. The problem will get noticed when the affected person have difficulty in managing daily tasks. For some people due to loss of oxygenated blood, fingernails will become blue in color. Even their mental stability will get diminished.

Causes :

Smoking is the main cause of emphysema. In addition, air pollution, long time exposure to tobacco smoke (passive smoking) and workplace related smoke like fumes can also cause emphysema. In rare cases emphysema is inherited due to protein deficiency.

Risk Factors :

Smoking of any kind, old age, over exposure to any kind of smoke and workplace related fumes are the major risk factors for emphysema. In severe case, emphysema can collapse the lungs leading to life threatening situations. It can also cause heart problems.

Tests :

After collecting the medical history the doctor would ask for the symptoms of shortness of breath and choking. He would request for imaging test like chest X-ray to check how far the disease has advanced. Blood test is done for checking the capacity of lungs to transfer the oxygen into the body. Special lung function test can also be done to measure the functionality of the lungs.

Treatment :

The damage caused by emphysema is irreversible. Some of the symptoms can be managed by effective medications and therapy. Bronchodilators and corticosteroid drugs are largely used for managing shortness of breath. To treat bacterial infection on the lungs, antibiotics are prescribed.

Therapies like pulmonary rehabilitation are helpful in learning various breathing exercises. In addition the affected person will be asked to take nutritious food to manage the right weight. For some people supplementary oxygen is needed at home and workplace. Surgery is done only if the symptoms are severe. Lung transplantation is done only if there is no other option. For some people, small volumes of the lungs that are badly damaged are removed by surgery.

Lifestyle Changes :

To begin with the person has to quit smoking to prevent further damage. Avoid working in allergy prone environment like fumes and automobile smoke. Stay away from strong perfumes and incense sticks. Do your exercise regularly which helps in getting rid of breathing problems. Keep your home clean and pollution free. Take precautions during winter by wearing scarf to protect your lungs from cold air. Use face mask when you need to mingle with people since you may get infection from them.

Pictures of Emphysema :

Images, Pics, Pictures and Photos of Emphysema

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Coping :

Even the daily routine activities can become tiresome for you, if you cannot breathe properly. You can no longer take place in long time entertainment. Accept this change and join a support group to express your feelings.

Prevention :

Avoid smoking completely and do not get involved even with passive smoking. This can only prevent you from emphysema.

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