When you feel you are going out of breath, a lot of things starts racing through your mind, you feel so terrible, eyes getting watery

In this post you will learn the following:

  1. What is emphysema?
  2. Signs and symptoms of emphysema

What is emphysema?

Emphysema (one of the types of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease COPD) is a chronic disease of the lungs characterized by permanent enlargement of air sacs spaces (alveoli). It is obstructive in nature because patients who suffer from emphysema have serious difficulty breathing out due to an obstruction to air flow.

What Is Emphysema
What Is Emphysema

One of the signs of emphysema is breathing under stress, thus the need to undergo lung function test to determine the extent of damage to the air sacs lining.

From several studies, smoking has been indicated to be the cause of emphysema. The toxins in cigarettes have a way of damaging the air sacs, this makes oxygen transport inefficient. Those who smoke cigarette are at a higher risk of having emphysema as cigarette is primary risk factor. Quitting smoking will go a long way to help but if emphysema has already set in, quitting can only do little but it does help to stop the inflammation.

Other less common causes of emphysema is a genetic disorder characterized by alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, lung cancer, air pollution (e.g. Eexposure to smoke).

Emphysema can be any of the following three types namely:

  1. Parasepta: This is a localized type of emphysema, often associated with prior lung infections.
  2. Centriacinal: this usually begins in the bronchioles, and continuously spread to the upper half of the lungs, it is strongly tied to smoking.
  3. Panacinar: This is associated with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, commonly found within the lower half of the lungs where it damages alveolar tissues).

Emphysema is an incurable disease with progressive complaints of breathing difficulty, it can only managed with medications, dieting and lifestyle, oxygen supplementation and inhalers may also help to improve quality of life.

Emphysema present symptoms that are very close to other chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases such as chronic bronchitis because they are majorly caused by the same thing- Smoking.

Symptoms of Emphysema

Emphysema symptoms are very conspicuous though it has similarities with other lungs infections such as pneumonia, pneumothorax (collapsed lungs), obliterative bronchiolitis  and bronchitis, one thing that distinguishes emphysema from others is that emphysema is progressive, except adequate treatment and lifestyle adjustments are made, it may lead to death. The following are the symptoms of Emphysema:

  1. Cough and phlegm production.
  2. Shortness of breath (dyspnea). This can make you turn blue especially when asphyxiation is set in motion, oxygen deficit to the body cells buildup with time, this can be catastrophic if 9-1-1 is not called immediately.
  3. Cyanosis and dry lips. Progressive oxygen deficit (chronic hypoxia) may also cause finger clubbing where the fingernails begins to change in morphology, and increased sputum production.
  4. Chest tightness and forceful breathing as the disease progresses.
  5. Profuse sweating and fast heart rate under forceful exertion.
  6. Lung crackles. This may be seen under examination with stethoscope.
  7. Mental confusion.
  8. Complications of emphysema symptoms may result in pulmonary embolus (blood clots in the lungs). So also extreme cold temperatures may exacerbate the symptoms.
  9. Bleeding from the lungs in chronic cases.

Emphysema can be prevented by lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking. Other treatments for emphysema includes steroids, bronchodilators. Long term oxygen deficit may require lung transplantation and long-term oxygen therapy.

Emphysema may be accurately diagnosed by studying the emphysema symptoms presented along with other diagnostic tests such as chest extra, computerized tomography (CT) scans in advance stages, spirometry, blood-cell count and chest x-ray.

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