Emphysema is a long-term, progressive disease of lungs that primarily causes shortness of breath. In people with emphysema, the tissues necessary to support the physical shape and function of the lungs are destroyed. Emphysema is known as an obstructive lung disease because airflow on exhalation is slowed or stopped because over-inflated alveoli do not exchange gases.
Signs and symptoms
The most common symptoms of emphysema include:
- Shortness of breath
- Tolerance for exercise decreases
- Barrel chest
The causes of emphysema include:
- Cigarette smoking
- Immune cells in the lung
- Air pollution
- Abnormal airway reactivity
- Older age
Treatment for emphysema can take many forms.
- Quit smoking – Cigarette smoking is known to be the biggest cause of emphysema. So, any treatment should be accompanied with a no to smoking approach.
- Bronchodilating medications - These medications, which cause the air passages to open more fully and allow better air exchange, are usually the first medications that a doctor will prescribe for emphysema.
- Steroid medications
- Oxygen therapy