What is Emphysema? Emphysema Symptoms and Treatment

Emphysema is a lung disease. Emphysema occurs as a result of damage to the lungs that lasts for many years. Emphysema treatment is aimed at relieving the symptoms of the patient. What is emphysema disease? How is emphysema treated? You can find the answers to all these questions in the following sections of the article.

What is Emphysema?

Emphysema is a lung disease in which the alveoli within the lung are damaged. Alveoli, or air sacs, are the structures through which the oxygen taken by breathing passes into the blood. Therefore, damage to the alveoli and their destruction as a result of damage causes air exchange in the lungs to be interrupted. People with pulmonary emphysema find it difficult to breathe, especially during exercise. Emphysema disease also causes the lungs to lose their elasticity.

In emphysema, there is irreversible damage to the lungs. Therefore, the main goal of treatment is to stop the progression of the disease and control the symptoms.

What are the causes of emphysema?

1) Smoking: People who smoke are approximately 6 times more likely to develop emphysema than non-smokers.

2)   Alpha-1 Antitrypsin (AAT) Deficiency: AAT is a protein found in the blood of healthy people. The main function of this protein is to prevent white blood cells from damaging the body’s own tissues. White blood cells are cells that prevent the development of infection in the body. In some people, the protein called AAT is less abundant, due to the influence of genetic factors. In case of AAT deficiency, white blood cells become capable of damaging the body’s own tissues. Therefore, damage of these cells to the lung tissue leads to the development of emphysema. The risk of emphysema increases significantly in people who both have AAT deficiency and smoke. People with AAT deficiency may experience liver-related problems as well as emphysema.

3) Passive Smoking: Being near smokers or smoking environments also poses a risk for lung diseases. Scientific studies have revealed that the risk of developing emphysema increases in people who smoke passively.


4) Air Pollution:
 It is thought that irritating substances inhaled due to air pollution will also contribute to the development of emphysema.

What are the symptoms of emphysema?

In emphysema patients, the muscles that help with breathing have to work harder. For this reason, they get tired more quickly. As a result, emphysema patients experience breathing difficulties even as a result of light activity. The onset of emphysema in smokers usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 60. In fact, the lung damage in the person started at an earlier period. Between the ages of 45 and 60, symptoms due to lung damage appear. Even in healthy people, there is a decrease in lung capacity with aging. A more serious decrease may occur in people with emphysema due to both aging and emphysema disease.

Usually, the only symptom of emphysema in the early stages is shortness of breath . As emphysema progresses, the patient:

  • Wheezing
  • persistent cough
  • Symptoms of chest tightness or pain may occur.

As the disease progresses, the patient may experience other symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • sleep problems
  • Bruising on lips and nail beds
  • Tiredness
  • Recurrent lung infections
  • Headache
  • weight loss

Is Emphysema Deadly?

Emphysema is a major condition that affects the lungs. Unfortunately, emphysematous change in the lung is irreversible. In emphysema patients, there is a decrease in quality of life due to reasons such as shortness of breath that increases with movement and constant cough. However, the decrease in life expectancy can be prevented with appropriate treatment.

In order to prevent serious complications and loss of life due to emphysema, the patient must strictly comply with his treatment. It is vital for smokers to quit smoking for the treatment to be successful. Behaviors such as the patient taking the prescribed medications regularly and attending doctor’s check-ups without interruption are also important for the success of the treatment. Life expectancy in emphysema varies depending on the patient’s general health condition, the severity of the disease, whether he or she smokes or not, and compliance with treatment.

Patients who were diagnosed with emphysema late, did not comply with their treatment, and did not quit smoking; He may lose his life.

How to Treat Emphysema?

Emphysema and COPD, a subtype of emphysema, are diseases from which complete recovery cannot be achieved. The main purpose of treatment in these diseases is to stop the progression of lung damage and reduce the patient’s symptoms.

Some therapies can be applied to make breathing easier in emphysema patients. These therapies:

Lung Rehabilitation: In this program, the patient is taught breathing techniques and is given exercises to get used to the correct technique.

Nutrition Therapy: It is a necessary therapy for patients to eat properly. In the early stages of emphysema, many patients’ weight is above ideal. Therefore, most patients need to lose weight. In the advanced stages of emphysema, many patients experience serious weight loss. With nutritional therapy, these patients are tried to be kept within the ideal weight range.

Oxygen Support: In the advanced emphysema stage, some patients have severely low blood oxygen levels. These patients need to receive oxygen support. Many patients require 24-hour oxygen support. These patients are given various oxygen devices that they can use at home.

Depending on the severity of emphysema, doctors may offer some patients the option of surgery.

The Basic Principle of Surgical Treatment  is the removal of damaged tissue in the lung. In this way, the remaining lung tissue is enabled to participate in respiration more effectively. Lung transplantation should be an option in cases where the damage to the lung is very serious and other treatment options are not successful.

There are some practices that patients with emphysema can follow to protect themselves from disease-related complications and reduce their symptoms. These applications:

Quitting Smoking: Quitting smoking contributes to the patient’s general health and stops the progression of emphysema. There are many groups to help you quit smoking. By joining these groups, patients can go through the smoking cessation process more easily.

Exercising Regularly: Even though problems such as shortness of breath make it difficult to exercise, movement should not be given up. Because exercise increases lung capacity.

Protection from Cold Weather: In cold weather, the respiratory tract narrows. Therefore, it becomes more difficult for emphysema patients to breathe in cold weather. For this reason, emphysema patients should wear protective equipment such as scarves and masks before going out in cold weather.

Getting Vaccinated: Lung infections can cause serious problems in emphysema patients. For this reason, patients should receive the pneumonia vaccine (pneumococcal vaccine) and flu vaccine at regular intervals.

Protection from Infections: Emphysema patients; If there is anyone around them who has flu or cold, they should not come into contact with these people and should not be in the same environment with these people. Patients should wear a mask before entering large groups, especially during the flu season.

Emphysema is a condition that can cause serious health problems. However, detecting the disease at an early stage and starting appropriate treatment has a positive effect on the course of the disease. For this reason, it would be beneficial for people who are in the risk group for emphysema (for example, smokers) to see a doctor at regular intervals and have the necessary check-ups.

Abbas Jahangir

I am a researcher and writer with a background in food and nutritional science. I am the founder of Foodstrend.com, our reputable online platform offering scientifically-backed articles on health, food, nutrition, kitchen tips, recipes, diet, and fitness. With a commitment to providing accurate and reliable information, we strive to empower our readers to make informed decisions about their health and lifestyle choices. Join us on Foodstrend.com's journey toward a healthier and happier lifestyle.

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