11 Unusual Emphysema Treatment Suggestions

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Emphysema is a chronic lung disease that damages the air sacs in the lungs and reduces the ability to breathe. The damage makes it hard for oxygen to get into the bloodstream. People who have emphysema often feel out of breath, especially when they are doing something that takes a lot of physical effort. They may also experience a chronic cough. Emphysema is part of what's known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Emphysema Causes, Symptoms, and Risk Factors

Emphysema causes happen when the walls between small air sacs in the lungs break down, allowing those sacs to collapse. This loss of air space reduces the amount of oxygen moved from the trachea into the bloodstream. Instead, what little oxygen one is able to get ends up being exhaled. Over time, the air spaces in the lungs get bigger and bigger, and fewer oxygen molecules can be transferred into the blood. The body gets less and less oxygen than it needs in order to function properly. The loss of alveoli causes emphysema.

Emphysema often develops slowly over many years as an individual is exposed to things that can damage the lungs, such as:

  • Cigarette smoking
  • Secondhand smoke
  • Air pollution
  • Dust or chemical fumes from work exposure.  
emphysema treatment, emphysema symptoms, emphysema causes, emphysema life expectancy, types of emphysema, signs of emphysema

People with emphysema often have shortness of breath and chronic cough with phlegm. The damage to the lungs can lead to other problems, such as:

The damage to the lungs can't be reversed, but treatment can slow the progress of emphysema and help keep an individual healthy.

Emphysema symptoms include persistent shortness of breath, fatigue, wheezing, dry cough with phlegm. If caused by smoking, signs of emphysema worsen during cigarette smoking and exposure to other people's cigarette smoke. As emphysema worsens over time, it becomes difficult for sufferers to perform even light physical exercise or complete household chores without having an attack.

Emphysema usually affects the upper portions of the lungs, but can affect all lung areas. Over time, emphysema symptoms worsen, making it difficult to breathe. Symptoms of emphysema are frequently worse with physical exertion and when the air becomes cold or dry. Other signs of emphysema include:

  • Wheezing
  • A cough that will not go away
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Problems during sexual intercourse
  • Problems Sleeping
  • Blue nail beds or lips
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent Lung Infections
  • Morning Headaches
  • Weight Loss

The risk factors for developing emphysema are the following:

emphysema treatment, emphysema symptoms, emphysema causes, emphysema life expectancy, types of emphysema, signs of emphysema
  • Smoking. Emphysema is likely to occur in cigarette, cigar, and pipe smokers. The risk for all types of smokers increases with the number of years and amount of tobacco smoked.
  • Age. Although the lung damage that occurs in emphysema develops gradually, many people with tobacco-related emphysema begin to experience symptoms of the disease between the ages of 40 and 60.
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke, also known as passive or environmental tobacco smoke, is smoke that an individual inhales from someone else's cigarette, pipe, or cigar. Being around secondhand smoke increases the chance of developing emphysema.
  • Occupational exposure to fumes or dust. If an individual breathes fumes from certain chemicals or dust from grain, cotton, wood, or mining products, they are more likely to develop emphysema. This risk is even greater if they smoke.
  • Exposure to indoor and outdoor pollution. Breathing indoor pollutants, such as fumes from heating fuel, as well as outdoor pollutants — car exhaust, for instance — increases the risk of emphysema.

Types of Emphysema

The emphysema types are caused by the destruction of air-filled sacs in the lung called alveoli. The alveoli are responsible for absorbing oxygen into the blood and breathing out carbon dioxide. Without these sacs, there is no longer a way to transfer the oxygen into the bloodstream or get rid of the carbon dioxide that has already been breathed in.

emphysema treatment, emphysema symptoms, emphysema causes, emphysema life expectancy, types of emphysema, signs of emphysema

There are two emphysema types; Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) emphysema and Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency emphysema.

  • Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency Emphysema: Originally discovered because of emphysema symptoms caused by another condition (Alpha-1). People who have Alpha-1 antitrypsin emphysema have emphysema symptoms when their emphysema is caused by another health issue.
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Emphysema: Also known as COPD emphysema, is a different type of emphysema that does not cause emphysema symptoms from other health issues. It was originally called chronic bronchitis emphysema because it causes similar emphysema signs and symptoms to chronic bronchitis.

Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) accounts for 5% to 10% of all cases of acute lung injury. In ARDS, increased permeability of the alveolar epithelium results in the movement of protein-rich fluid into the alveolar airspaces. Decreased surfactant production leads to a loss of normal lung compliance, ventilation-perfusion mismatch, and pulmonary shunting. The ventilation-induced injury adds to the damage caused by hypoxemia and hypercapnia minimized; this can be through low tidal volume ventilation (6 mL/kg predicted body weight) with adequate positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) or respiratory rate (RR) titrated to arterial blood gas determinations. This treatment reduces mortality from ARDS but prolongs its average duration.

Emphysema Treatment

Currently, emphysema treatment is aimed at reducing signs and symptoms. Doctors might prescribe emphysema treatment such as:

  • Cough suppressants and expectorants
  • Bronchodilators (to dilate the airways)
  • Antibiotics (for bacterial emphysema infections)
  • Oxygen therapy (to help emphysema sufferers breathe easier)
  • Corticosteroids (for emphysema treatment of allergic reactions)

Lung rehabilitation or pulmonary emphysema treatment programs. Lung emphysema transplantation may be considered for emphysema treatment if COPD emphysema treatment options aren't very effective. Patients who undergo a lung emphysema transplant will need to take medications to suppress their immune system.

As emphysema treatment methods advance, doctors may someday be able to prevent emphysema and even reverse emphysema. Treatments such as stem cell emphysema therapy, which involves the injection of emphysema stem cells into the lungs, may go a long way toward halting emphysema. Researchers are also investigating emphysema gene therapy.

Other emphysema treatments include:

  • Lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking.
  • Avoiding secondhand smoke and places where an individual might breathe in other lung irritants. It may be necessary for a person to find a different job if their current one exposes them to harsh chemicals.
  • Asking a doctor for an eating plan to meet nutritional needs. Also, inquire about how much exercise and activity an individual can do. Physical activity can strengthen muscles that help with breathing and improve overall wellness.
  • Medication such as Bronchodilators. These relax the muscles around an individual's airways, which helps open the airways and makes breathing easier. Most bronchodilators are taken through an inhaler. In more serious cases, the inhaler may also contain steroids to reduce inflammation.
  • Vaccines for the flu and pneumococcal pneumonia, since people with emphysema are at higher risk for serious problems from these diseases.
  • Antibiotics for a bacterial or viral lung infection.
  • Oxygen therapy if an individual has severe emphysema and low levels of oxygen in their blood. Oxygen therapy can help them breathe better. They may need extra oxygen all the time or only at certain times.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation, which is a program that assists and improves the well-being of people who have chronic breathing problems. It may include:

-An exercise program

-Disease management training

-Nutritional counseling

-Psychological counseling

  • Surgery, usually the last option for people who have serious symptoms that have not gotten better with medicines. There are surgeries to:

-Remove damaged lung tissue

-Remove large air spaces (bullae) that can form when air sacs are destroyed. The bullae can interfere with breathing.

-Do a lung transplant. This is might be an option if an individual has very severe emphysema.

Emphysema Life Expectancy and Stages

People who have emphysema generally live six to eight years less than other people. Emphysema life expectancy is difficult to predict emphysema stages because emphysema disease often develops slowly and emphysema symptoms may not be noticeable until emphysema's late stages.

Emphysema life expectancy ranges from sufferers living as many as 20 years to late emphysema stage patients dying only five years after emphysema diagnosis.

Stages: Emphysema stages range from a mild case of emphysema to severe stages, which can be fatal.

Emphysema stages usually include:

  • Emphysema Pre-Stage 1: May not have symptoms of the disease, but an individual is at risk for developing emphysema or other lung problems.
  • Emphysema Stage 1: Breathing is slightly hindered, but lung function can be improved through treatment. Symptoms include mild shortness of breath that may only require little treatment or medication.
  • Emphysema Stage 2: Difficulty breathing while at rest with the potential for more advanced stages if fast measures are not taken. However, emphysema stages 2 to 3 are the stages where lung function usually begins to improve with treatment.
  • Emphysema Stage 3: Shortness of breath at rest, which can interfere with daily activities and require supplemental oxygen or pulmonary rehabilitation. Lung function may begin to improve during this stage if treated early enough.
  • Emphysema Stage 4: Stages where oxygen levels in arterial blood is low and where stages 4 and 5 patients need supplemental oxygen or a lung transplant. This can begin to impact the quality of life and may even interfere with normal cardiac activity if left untreated.
  • Emphysema Stage 5: The most severe stage that cannot be reversed and may lead to death. Lungs become stiff, making it difficult for an individual to breathe without supplemental oxygen. A lung transplant is the only medical option at this point.

Emphysema stages 4 and 5 can decrease life expectancy by as much as two years with each stage due to the severity of emphysema stages 4 and 5.

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