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What Is Emphysema?

Dec 08, 2017

Emphysema is a long-term lung disease. Emphysema is part of a group of lung diseases called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Emphysema damages the alveoli (air sacs) in your lungs. This makes it hard for your lungs to send oxygen to the rest of your body.



What increases my risk for emphysema?


You are at higher risk of emphysema if you have had other lung conditions or heart problems. Your risk also increases if you have exposure to the following:


×Tobacco or cannabis smoke, including secondhand smoke

×Dust, chemicals, or smoke used in the workplace

×Air pollution



What are the signs and symptoms of emphysema?


Your signs and symptoms may develop over time. You may not notice them until they start to interfere with your daily activities.


×Shortness of breath that gets worse with activity, such as climbing stairs

×A bluish tint to your skin, lips, or nails

×Weight loss

×Barrel chest (rounded, bulging chest)

×You feel better if you breathe through pursed lips


How is emphysema diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and examine you. He will ask if you smoke or are exposed to smoke, air pollution, dust, or chemicals.


Blood tests are done to measure the amount of oxygen, acids, and carbon dioxide your blood contains. They will also show if you have an infection.

A chest x-ray is a picture of your lungs and heart. Healthcare providers use the x-ray to look for damage to your lungs and heart.

Pulmonary function tests (PFTs) are a group of tests that measure how well your lungs take in and release oxygen.


How is emphysema treated?


The most important thing you can do to treat your emphysema is to stop smoking.

*Medicines to open your airways, decrease swelling and inflammation in your lungs, or treat an infection may be given. You may need 2 or more medicines. A short-acting medicine relieves symptoms quickly. Long-acting medicines will control or prevent symptoms. Ask your healthcare provider how to use your medicines safely.

*Pulmonary rehabilitation is a program to help you manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. It may include nutritional counseling and exercise, such as walking, to strengthen your lungs.

*Oxygen may help you breathe easier and feel more alert if you have severe COPD.

*Surgery is sometimes done if all other treatments have failed. A lung reduction is surgery to remove part of your damaged lung. A lung transplant is the replacement of your lung with a donor lung. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about surgery for emphysema.