Emphysema

Emphysema is a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It occurs when the walls of the air sacs in the lungs become damaged. Damage to the lungs is usually caused by smoking, which is responsible for 80 to 90 percent of the cases of emphysema. Over time, the damage causes the lungs to be less elastic and less able to function in the exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen.

Causes of Emphysema

Emphysema is usually caused by the irritation of the lung tissue due to either cigarette smoke or environmental pollution. Some of the causes of emphysema are:

  • Smoking
  • Environmental pollution
  • Asthma
  • Tuberculosis
  • Allergy
  • Infection
  • Genetic link

Symptoms of Emphysema

Some of the symptoms of emphysema are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chronic cough
  • Weight loss
  • Clubbed fingertips
  • Blue tinged lips or fingernails
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Bronchitis or other lung infection

Treatment of Emphysema

Emphysema is a degenerative condition and there is no cure. There are treatments, however, that can slow the advancement of the disease and relieve symptoms. Some of these treatments include:

  • Bronchodilator drugs
  • Steroid medication
  • Antibiotics
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation
  • Supplementary oxygen treatment
  • Medication to stop smoking

Certain cases of emphysema may warrant surgical intervention to either reduce the amount of damaged lung tissue or replace the lung through transplant surgery.

Additional Resources