Emphysema is a lung disease that often develops after many years of smoking. It is a common type of Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which occurs when the air sacs in the lungs become damaged and stressed. As a result, the patient experiences difficulty in breathing and develops chronic cough.
How Emphysema Relates to COPD
Individuals diagnosed with emphysema are said to have COPD. However, it’s possible to have COPD and not have emphysema. Besides emphysema, other chronic lung diseases like chronic bronchitis and asthma can cause COPD.
Causes of Emphysema
Smoking is the number one cause of emphysema. But air pollutants at home or workplace, genetics, and respiratory infections can also play a role in causing emphysema.
The smoke from cigarettes irritates the airways and destroys lung tissue. It causes the inflammation and damage of cilia that line the bronchial tubes. This leads to high mucus production, swollen airways, and difficulty clearing the airways.
Once emphysema develops, it can’t be reversed. Therefore, quitting smoking is quite crucial.
Symptoms of Emphysema and COPD
Emphysema and COPD signs and symptoms include:
- Chronic cough that produces mucus
- Tightness in the chest
- Wheezing and whistling or squeaky sound when breathing
- Shortness of breath(dyspnea)
- If not treated as soon as possible, an individual might experience the following symptoms:
- Weight loss and reduced appetite
- Anxiety and depression
- Fatigue and energy loss
- Worsening symptoms, including increased mucus production, wheezing, and shortness of breath
- Sleep problems
Treatments of Emphysema and COPD
There’s no cure for the lung damage caused by emphysema. But treatment can help:
- Slow down the progression of emphysema
- Prevent further complications
- Manage the symptoms
- Improve an individual’s overall health and well-being.
Individuals suffering from emphysema and COPD can receive bronchodilators to relieve the symptoms. These medications can also help to relax and open the airways, allowing a person to breathe.
A doctor can also recommend inhaled steroids like fluticasone, which can help to reduce the inflammation in the lung.
Other supportive therapy includes oxygen therapy and help with quitting smoking.
Prevention of Emphysema and COPD
Emphysema and COPD have a clear cause and clear path of prevention. Also, there are different ways to slow the progression of these conditions. The most effective way to prevent these diseases is to never smoke or stop smoking now.
We know this statement may not seem simple, especially for longtime smokers. But quitting smoking is the best chance for reducing damage to your lungs.
The following lifestyle changes can also help:
- Avoid irritants and places where there are air pollutants
- Consume a healthful diet
- Drink lots of water
- Practice diaphragmatic breathing and deep breathing
Emphysema and COPD are chronic lung conditions that have no cure. But this doesn’t mean you can’t prevent or manage them.
Never smoking or quitting smoking is the first step. However, you can adopt various lifestyle changes, like eating healthy diets and drinking lots of water.
That said, if you have any of the signs and symptoms of emphysema and COPD, seek medical assistance immediately.