What Causes Emphysema? Its Symptoms, Treatment And Prevention

Emphysema is a chronic lung infection also known by names like:

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease
  • Chronic Obstructive Airways Disease
  • Chronic Bronchitis

COPD or Emphysema is a common lung condition that occurs in humans. This condition makes breathing properly difficult. COPD damages the air sacs in your lungs or the alveoli, making it tiring to inhale and exhale properly. The tissue in the air sacs is not able to exchange oxygen-rich air with air from the lungs because of tears or damage. It is a condition that never quite heals and needs to be properly managed in order to keep the lungs functioning efficiently.

Among the causes for emphysema, one of the most common causes is smoking. The actual cause is long term exposure to toxic smoke like that from cigarettes or marijuana. Exposure to certain gases at the workplace (like in mines for instance) or even excessive air pollution can lead to COPD. Miners often suffer from this condition.

There are some genetic reasons too that can make you prone to COPD. The deficiency of an enzyme, alpha 1 antitrypsin can cause COPD.  This enzyme fights trypsin in the lungs, which releases bacteria as part of its role in the digestive system. People with the deficiency cannot fight these bacteria, which slowly destroys the lung tissue.

Symptoms Of Emphysema

The main symptoms of emphysema are usually chronic in nature and recur with varying consistency.

  • Cough, which can be with mucus or without it
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Wheezing or even trouble catching breath
  • Respiratory infections
  • Fatigue

Emphysema Treatment And Prevention

As this condition is a chronic condition, there is no actual treatment. All the treatment options help in controlling and managing the symptoms.

Medication – there are different degrees of medication that are prescribed for emphysema. You can be prescribed steroids that can be inhaled.

These steroids, available as aerosol sprays, help relieve breathlessness. It is advisable to not use these steroids for a long term due to other health risks.

Antibiotics usually help combat infections like bronchitis or other bacterial infections. Broncho dilators can relieve coughing and shortness of breath.

Surgery – Surgery is also suggested as a method of treatment depending on the spread of damage to the lung tissue. It could be a surgery to reduce lung volume or might involve a lung transplant.

Therapy – there are support groups and counseling which can make a difference to how you deal with COPD and how people around you are more sensitized to changing their habits so that you suffer less.

There are some behaviors that increase your risk of emphysema. If you can change that behavior, you can reduce the risk considerably.

  • Quit smoking. The faster you quit, the better your lungs will work.
  • Ensure that you keep away from contaminated environments.
  • Wear masks to ensure you are not exposed to pollution.
  • Inculcate a regular exercise regimen to build up immunity and prevent recurrent respiratory infections.
  • Reduce excess weight, if any.

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