Emphysema is one of the many diseases known for its association to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which damages the air sacs (alveoli) which are in clusters in your lungs.
Due to the effects of emphysema, the inner walls of these air sacs become weak and eventually rupture. The end result is one large air space instead of the clusters that were previously there, which reduces the overall surface area of the lung and the amount of oxygen delivered to your bloodstream.
This also causes exhaling issues for damaged alveoli traps old air and leaves no room for new oxygen-rich air to enter these air sacs. Once this damage is caused, the progression of the disease may be deterred with emphysema treatment, however, it is irreversible.
How Do I Know If I Have Emphysema?
So what will I experience if I have emphysema? Here are some of the main symptoms and suffering one may encounter:
As the main symptom of emphysema is shortness of breath that begins gradually, people have been known to have this disease for many years without being aware. If severe enough, the shortness of breath can even be experienced while resting, or causing a feeling of air hunger in which one feels they are unable to catch their breath. In these circumstances, emphysema treatment is essential for maintaining a good quality of life.
Other symptoms caused by emphysema include:
- Feeling of tightness in the chest
- Distended chest that is barrel-like
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of weight
- Ankle swelling
- Constant lethargy
- Blue or gray discoloration of lips or fingertips with exertion
- Change in mental alertness
Natural Emphysema Treatment
If you have been diagnosed with emphysema you are most likely undergoing emphysema treatment. At present, there is noavailable cure for emphysema; however, there are a number of measures you can take on your own to prevent the progression of your condition and prevent future complications.
1. Quit Smoking Cessation:
Smoking is the leading cause of this disease,so quitting smoking is the most important action you can take to maintain your quality of life. It may bealso the only action that will prevent the progression of your condition. Support for smoking cessation is abundant, such as your family and friends. Besides, your primary care physician can direct you to the necessary resources. Also, joining a support program is greatly beneficial. Avoiding secondhand smoke is just as important.
2. Avoid Exposure to Other Respiratory Irritants
Indoor or outdoorpollutantexposure increases the risk of developing emphysema.These irritants can include paint fumes, automobile exhaust, cooking odors, strong perfumes and even the burning of candles and incense. It is recommended to change the filters in your furnace and air conditioner on a regular basis to decrease pollutants. If you go outdoors, wear a mask or scarf to protect yourself.
3. Avoid Cold Air
Your bronchial passages may spasm as a result of cold air which makes breathing even more difficult. Protect yourself by wearing a scarf or a cold-air mask that you can purchase from a pharmacy. Place these over your mouth and nose before exposure to cold air; this will warm the air entering your lungs.
4. Get Regular Exercise
It may be difficult for you to exercise due to shortness of breath, however, do as much as you can for exercise can aid in increasing your lung capacity. Breaking up exercise sessions into small 5 minute sessions may be helpful, rest when necessary.
5. Take Measures to Prevent Respiratory Infections
Pneumonia vaccinations and annual flu vaccines should be administered as advised by your primary care physician. Avoid direct contact with others who are affected by the cold or flu. It may be necessary to protect yourself by wearing a mask if you are going to be near large groups of people. Frequent hand washing and utilizing hand sanitizer also aid in prevention.
Medical Emphysema Treatments
The following treatments aid in relieving emphysema symptoms and hindering its progression. Treatment is individualized based upon the severity of your symptoms. Be sure to work out a plan with your doctor.
- Bronchodilators are medications that can be administered by inhalers or a nebulizer. They relieve symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough and other breathing problems as they relax your constricted airways.
- Inhaled corticosteroids delivered via aerosol sprays help to relieve shortness of breath.
- Antibiotics are beneficial if you develop a bacterial infection such as acute bronchitis or pneumonia.
2. Various Therapies
- Being involved in a pulmonary rehabilitation program can teach you valuable breathing exercises and techniques. These are helpful as they can reduce your shortness of breath and improve your exercise tolerance.
- Nutrition therapy is receiving advice about proper nutrition related to your stage of emphysema. Weight loss may be necessary in the early stages and weight gain may be necessary in late stages.
- Oxygen supplementation helps relieve shortness of breath caused by low oxygen levels in your blood. It may be necessary to use at home during rest or exercise to get relief of symptoms.
3. Surgical Options
The following surgical procedures may be suggested by your primary care physician based on the severity of your emphysema symptoms:
- Lung volume reduction: Surgeons may remove small sections of your damaged lung tissue which helps the remaining lung tissue expand. This allows the lungs to improve function and helps reduce shortness of breath.
- Lung transplant: This surgery is an option if your emphysema is severe and greatly affecting your quality of life. It is usually discussed with patients when all other emphysema treatment options have failed.
Prognosis for Emphysema
No two people exhibit the same symptoms. Symptoms are individually based and so is the progression of this condition. So statistics are not very beneficial in determining this related to the vast differences seen in each patient. However, the most important determinant of a prognosis for emphysema and life expectancy is whether or not a patient continues to smoke. So be sure to bear in mind that quitting smoking is the most important and beneficial treatment that can be done to improve quality of life and life expectancy.