Among the diseases included in the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) category is emphysema. In most cases, emphysema is caused by cigarette smoking. People who have never smoked but who have been in environments with smokers have also been diagnosed with this chronic condition.
Unfortunately, at this time, there is no cure for emphysema. There are treatments to help patients manage the disease and assist in breathing easier. Testing helps determine to what extent the lungs have been damaged and how well they are working.
Treatments for emphysema include the use of bronchodilators, which help relax the muscles in the lungs. These drugs are normally used with an inhaler but can also be administered in pill or liquid form. The inhaler is the most effective form and has the least side effects.
Steroids and combination medicines are also used to treat emphysema. These medications reduce the swelling and mucus production in the lungs. They are also inhaled and may be used in combination with a bronchodilator.
Oxygen therapy may be used as emphysema gets worse. Your doctor will determine if you need oxygen, and if so, how much and in what form. Oxygen concentrators filter air and remove other gases in order for you to breathe near-pure oxygen. Liquid oxygen is supercooled, pure oxygen that is stored in a canister. Oxygen cylinders also contain pure oxygen. In this form, the oxygen is stored in large or small tanks under high pressure.
When a protein deficiency is the cause of emphysema, Alpha-1-antitrypsin (AAT) protein therapy may be used to help slow the disease. Normal white blood cells damage the lungs in a person with AAT deficiency. Infusions of the AAT protein can slow emphysema’s progress in these patients.
Other treatment options for emphysema include PDE-4 inhibitors, which are newer drugs. These are taken by mouth and have been shown to improve lung function when they are used with bronchodilators. Mucolytics are used to help thin the mucus in the lungs, so it is easier to cough it up. These drugs may reduce flare-ups in more severe cases of emphysema.
Symptoms of Emphysema
This pulmonary disease gradually destroys lung tissue as it thins and irreparably damages the air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs. Air pockets form in the lungs and the size of the lungs increases. Air gets trapped in the pockets created by the damaged lung tissue. As the disease advances, the patient has an increasingly difficult time breathing.
Emphysema patients are also more prone to chronic bronchitis. This produces frequent coughing with phlegm that can clog airways, adding to the difficulty in breathing. Daily activities such as exercising, even walking, can become challenging due to shortness of breath.
With a thorough examination, your condition can be diagnosed, and an effective treatment program can be put in place to help you manage your condition. Contact Dr. Michael today to schedule your appointment.