Pulmonary emphysema is a condition characterized by progressive deterioration of the lungs and, with it, an increase in shortness of breath. It belongs to a group of diseases known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
as it gets worse, the inner walls of the alveoli break down, becoming inefficient for gas exchange. This leads to a decrease in oxygen reaching the bloodstream.
It destroys the elastic fibers that keep the airways open leading to the alveoli. These pathways collapse when you exhale, so the air can’t leave your lungs and there is no more space for the oxygen-rich air to enter.
Medical treatments for emphysema
Treatment for emphysema will depend on how severe it is. Your doctor may choose to:
- Recommend preventive measures (to minimize disease progression).
- Focus on symptomatic treatment.
- Resort to surgery.
While this measure is not a treatment as such, most doctors recommend it for patients who have trouble breathing.
Smoking cessation can halt the progression of the disease and, to some extent, improve lung function. As, eliminating this bad habit can restore the necessary conditions to the lungs to get them to work properly again.
If the doctor deems it so, it is possible that he will prescribe some drugs (aimed at treating addictions) or even suggest attending support groups to gradually stop smoking.
These drugs often are prescribed for people with increased breathing difficulties, even when there is no evidence of infection in the lung. People treated with antibiotics tend to have shorter respiratory attacks.
The data thus far suggests that when COPD patients have a sudden worsening of cough and shortness of breath symptoms, immediate brief use of steroids and antibiotics may reduce hospitalizations.
If you have difficulty breathing and go to the hospital emergency room, you will most likely be given oxygen.
In severe cases, it may be necessary to intubate the patient. Moreover, some doctors prescribe oxygen machines so that the patient has it at home and uses it when needed.
Lung volume reduction surgery
Even if it doesn’t seem to make much sense, reducing the size of the lung can make breathing easier. It is important to remember that emphysema causes the chest wall to expand abnormally, which decreases the efficiency of breathing.
This intervention is effective only if both are involved upper lobes of the lungs. This surgery significantly improves the patient’s quality of life.
this option it is considerable only in the most severe and advanced cases. Transplanting one or both lungs can make the disease almost disappear, however it carries a number of risks that must be considered:
- These people will need to take immunosuppressant drugs for life. to avoid transplant rejection.
- Not all patients are eligible for a transplant and those who are are limited by the scarcity of organs available.
Pulmonary rehabilitation is probably the most effective therapy for COPD patients with emphysema. Gradual exercise, correct breathing techniques, patient information and education about their disease improve quality of life and reduce hospitalizations.
There is no cure, but there are treatment options which can delay the progression of the disease and allow for a normal life. Therefore, the diagnosis of emphysema is not a death sentence.
The first step that the patient must take should be to stop smoking as soon as possible. At the same time, you must follow the doctor’s instructions and try not to miss scheduled consultations.
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