Emphysema is included in a group of lung conditions categorized as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The usual cause of emphysema is cigarette smoking but there are also other risk factors such as air pollution, secondhand smoke or occupational exposure that can play a part in its development.
In this condition, the alveoli or air sacs deep within the lungs are damaged and eventually burst. This results to large-sized holes that trap air inside the lungs. Once air is trapped, the lungs have to strain to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide that leads to low oxygen and eventually an increase in the level of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream.
Even though there is no cure for emphysema, the objective of treatment is to slow down the progression of the disease, deal with the obstructed airways to relieve the associated hypoxia as well as improve the quality of life.
At the present, there are no medications available that has been proven to be effective in modifying the decline rate in the lung function for those who have emphysema. There are certain medications available to manage the condition that can help minimize or abolish the symptoms, increase tolerance to exercise, reduce the frequency of COPD exacerbations and improve the overall health condition.
The commonly used medications in managing stable COPD include the following:
Non-medication treatment for emphysema
There are also non-pharmacological measures in managing the condition that can drastically improve the outcome.
With the help of assessment, exercise, psychological and education support, the objectives of pulmonary rehabilitation include minimizing the symptoms, improving the quality of life and increasing physical and emotional participation in daily activities.
Oxygen therapy can be given either continuously, during activity or to help relieve abrupt episodes of shortness of breath. Long-term oxygen therapy has been proven to increase the survival rates of those who have COPD as well as preserves the functionality of all vital organs.
Cessation of smoking
Cessation of smoking is considered as a vital step in the management of emphysema but usually overlooked. If the individual finds it hard to quit, there are various measures that can help.
At the present, there are 3 types of lung surgery that can be used in managing end-stage emphysema among individuals who have severe symptoms that could not be controlled with medications such as bullectomy, lung volume reduction surgery and lung transplant.
Always bear in mind that emphysema is a disease that has a deadly nature. Even though it is irreversible, continuous treatment can help the individual comfortably breathe, improve overall health and ensure a better quality of life.