Emphysema is a prevalent form of COPD where the alveoli of the lungs are impaired which causes them to enlarge and burst. Since the alveoli are the cells in which oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged, impairment in this area causes difficulty to expel air from the lungs. This leads to the buildup of carbon dioxide in the body.
It is important to note that emphysema is an irreversible, end-stage process that steadily progresses over several years. At the present, there is no available cure, but treatment can help improve the quality of life.
What are the main causes?
Smoking is the main cause of emphysema. This can damage the cilia in the lungs that clear away the mucus and secretions. This results to blockage in the airways. The cigarette smoke also triggers inflammation and irritation in the lungs which leads to increased mucus production. Excess mucus in the lungs puts the individual at higher risk for lung infections.
Air pollution also has a role in the development of emphysema. It triggers airway inflammation and irritation that destroys the healthy lung tissues.
What are the indications?
The main signs of emphysema include:
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid breathing
- Barrel chest
- Chronic coughing with or without sputum
- Appetite loss that leads to weight loss
- Reduced tolerance to exercise
Over time, those who suffer from emphysema might progress to respiratory failure that arises after a slow disease process.
Management of emphysema
The main objective in the management of emphysema is to improve the quality of life, slow down the progression of the disease and manage the airways to alleviate the lack of oxygen.
Some of these treatment options include:
- Aerosol therapy
- Oxygen therapy