Emphysema

What is Emphysema?

Emphysema is the lung condition which involves damage to the walls of the air sacs medically known as Alveoli. Alveoli are small, thin-walled and very fragile, located in clusters at the end of the bronchial tubes deep inside lungs. On average there are about 280-300 million alveoli in normal lungs, they play the most vital in the respiratory process. It is where the interchange of oxygen and carbon-di-oxide takes place. Both chronic bronchitis and emphysema fall into the sect of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The term ‘obstructive’ is used as they both hinder the smooth interchange of oxygen and carbon-di-oxide in the lungs causing shortness of breath. The major cause of emphysema is smoking; a person can develop emphysema after many years of inhaling polluted air.  


Emphysema Causes

Most of the emphysema patients have been found related to smoking in some sort or another, over the years. Air pollutants in-home or work-space, genetic factors and other respiratory infections also play a part in causing emphysema. Statistics show that over 3 million people have been diagnosed with emphysema in the US, and more than 11 million people have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Emphysema is one of the most preventable diseases as it relates to smoking; an early halt to smoking can prevent emphysema. Cigarettes also destroy the lung tissues and also block the airways, causing inflammation. As the lung swells up, the amount of exchanged air is reduced, causing obstruction in breathing. Also, the bronchioles over-inflated due to the inflammation of the lungs, the diaphragm gets compressed.

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Emphysema Symptoms 

There are some key symptoms of emphysema that necessitates a thorough diagnosis. Such emphysema symptoms include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, inflated chest, chest tightness, excessive mucus production. Emphysema symptoms can be misunderstood as a minor ailment. Some of the other symptoms include- 

  • You may feel shortness of breath while working out, even during light exercise.

  • There may be a continuous feeling of not getting enough air.

  • Fatigue

  • Excessive mucus production.

  • Coughing, especially experiencing smoker’s cough

  • Your chest may look rounded or inflated

  • Coughing up stained phlegm, usually yellow or red in colour.

  • Weight loss

  • Difficulty sleeping


Types Of Emphysema

There are three types of emphysema - Centriacinar emphysema, panacinar emphysema and paraseptal emphysema.

  • Centriacinar Emphysema- In this condition, the alveoli and airways of the central acinus are affected. The respiratory bronchioles and alveolar ducts are destroyed.

  • Panacinar Emphysema- Panacinar emphysema damages the whole acinus.

  • Paraseptal Emphysema- In this condition patients are known to acquire the pulmonary bullous disease.


Emphysema Diagnostic Procedures And Prevention

Emphysema falls under the COPD umbrella, and this cannot be cured, but if diagnosed, treatments can help relieve to slow the progression of the disease. As the disease is mostly caused by smoking, it can be prevented beforehand by simply giving up on the whole idea of smoking cigarettes. In the case of polluted air in the work-space, wearing a mask can benefit hugely. Bronchodilators, inhaled steroids, antibiotics are some of the treatments that doctors suggest to emphysema patients. There are also some therapeutic procedures, such as pulmonary rehabilitation, nutrition therapy, or supplemental oxygen. Depending on the severity of emphysema, one may have to go under surgery. Lung volume reduction surgery and lung transplantation are viable options. Physiotherapy can also help in increasing the exercise capacity, mobility and self-confidence of emphysema patients. 


Did You Know

Statistics show that over 3 million people have been diagnosed with emphysema in the US, and more than 11 million people have COPD. People between the ages of 50-70 are most common emphysema patients. Though deadly, this disease can be prevented as it is linked to smoking. Around 480,000 people are killed each year in the US for smoking. And 80% of those deaths are due to COPD, which includes emphysema.


Solved Examples

  1. What Are The Emphysema Symptoms?

There are some key symptoms of emphysema that necessitates a thorough diagnosis. Such symptoms include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, inflated chest, chest tightness, excessive mucus production.


  1. What Are The Types Of Emphysema And Describe Them In Short?

There are three types of emphysema- Centriacinar emphysema, panacinar emphysema and paraseptal emphysema. In Centriacinar emphysema the alveoli and airways of the central acinus are affected while Panacinar emphysema affects the whole central acinus. Paraseptal emphysema is the third type of this lung condition which leads to various pulmonary diseases.   

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. How Long Can You Live With Emphysema?

Emphysema falls under the COPD umbrella, and this cannot be cured, but if diagnosed, treatments can help relieve to slow the progression of the disease. As the disease is mostly caused by smoking, it can be prevented beforehand by simply giving up on the whole idea of smoking cigarettes. In the case of polluted air in the work-space, wearing a mask can benefit hugely. Acquiring a good healthy lifestyle can extend life expectancy. People who have been diagnosed with emphysema have a good chance of surviving more than three-five years. However, if a person is diagnosed with emphysema and doesn’t quit smoking may expect their life span reduced by ten years or more.  

2. What Are Emphysema Causes?

Most of the emphysema patients have been found related to smoking in some sort or another, over the years. Air pollutants in-home or work-space, genetic factors and other respiratory infection also play a part in emphysema causes. Statistics show that over 3 million people have been diagnosed with emphysema in the US, and more than 11 million people have COPD. Emphysema is one of the most preventable diseases as it relates to smoking; an early halt to smoking can prevent emphysema. Cigarettes also destroy the lung tissues and also block the airways, causing inflammation. As the lung swells up, the amount of exchanged air is reduced, causing obstruction in breathing.