Pulmonary emphysema

This disease originates when the pulmonary alveoli are progressively destroyed and the difficulty in breathing becomes greater and greater. As they are destroyed, a larger space is created, instead of small chambers. And this affects the extension of the lungs and the amount of oxygen reaching the blood.

What is pulmonary emphysema?

This disease progressively destroys the fibers that allow the airways to remain open. This problem causes the collapse of these airways when a person exhales air. That is to say, the air expelled by the lungs, which contains carbon dioxide, cannot get out, and consequently, fresh air, full of oxygen, does not enter the lungs.

The disease progressively destroys the fibers that promote breathing.

Symptoms of pulmonary emphysema

The most common symptom of pulmonary emphysema is shortness of breath, which gradually worsens. The affected person begins to avoid activities that cause shortness of breath in order to alleviate the problem. However, the disease worsens to the point that it makes it difficult to carry out daily life. Emphysema reaches the maximum degree of affectation when it makes breathing difficult even when the patient is at maximum rest.

What are the causes of pulmonary emphysema?

Exposure to irritants in the air is the main cause of pulmonary emphysema, listed below:

  • Tobacco and marijuana smoke
  • Air pollution
  • Manufacturing gases
  • Silica and coal dust

It can also be caused by an inherited deficiency, but this is the least common cause.

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Can it be prevented?

The best prevention of pulmonary emphysema is not to smoke and to avoid being a passive smoker, that is to say, to avoid breathing the smoke of another smoker. It is also advisable to use a mask if you work in contact with dust or chemical vapors. There are also other tips such as:

  • Quit smoking: it is the best measure to prevent emphysema, and the only one that can stop the growth of emphysema. Also avoid being a passive smoker to avoid major problems.
  • Avoid other respiratory irritants: Change furnace and air conditioning filters to maintain a hygienic environment. Avoid perfumes, cooking odors, exhaust fumes, paint, candles, etc.
  • Exercise regularly: Physical exercise can increase lung capacity, despite breathing difficulties.
  • Protect yourself from cold air: Cold air can cause spasms in the bronchi, making breathing difficult. Use a scarf to protect the nose and mouth to warm the air that the person will inhale.
  • Avoid respiratory infections: Get vaccinated against pneumonia and flu. Avoiding contact with people with colds or flu is also a good preventive measure.

What is the treatment?

There is no cure for pulmonary emphysema, but some treatments can relieve symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. Treatments can be divided into three groups, medications, therapy and surgery.

Medications: There are different types of medications that can reduce the severity of symptoms. Smoking cessation medications are prescribed by a physician and can help in the task of quitting smoking. Bronchodilators can help reduce coughing, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Inhaled steroids, like bronchodilators, can help relieve shortness of breath. But it is not advisable to take them continuously, because they can weaken the bones and increase the risk of blood pressure. Finally, antibiotics are used in cases where a bacterial infection develops, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.

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Therapy: In terms of therapy there are two, pulmonary rehabilitation and oxygen supplementation. The former is a rehabilitation program that can help reduce shortness of breath and will improve your lung capacity. Oxygen supplementation, on the other hand, is performed for patients suffering from severe emphysema with low oxygen levels in the blood.

Surgery: There are two different types of surgery depending on the severity of your emphysema. Lung volume reduction and lung transplantation. In the first, surgeons remove small wedges of affected lung tissue. This helps healthy lung tissue to work more efficiently and thus improve breathing. Lung transplantation is performed when the patient suffers from severe emphysema and all other treatments have failed.