Emphysema is one of many diseases known collectively as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It’s a long-term progressive disease that affects the lungs. Emphysema can be defined as a condition of the lungs characterized by the destruction of the alveoli [lung cells] through the breakdown of elastic fibres. This destruction occurs because of proteases which are secreted by the immune cells.
The principle cause of Emphysema is smoking. The deficiency of alpha 1 antitrypsin also leads to changes in the lungs. Other risk factors include age and exposure to fumes, dust, etc. People with Emphysema are more likely to have a pulmonary collapse, called Pneumothorax, heart problems and blisters in the lungs. It is possible to have Emphysema for a long time without noticing the signs of it but there are some common symptoms.
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty in exhaling
- Pulmonary hypertension
Lung damage from COPD is irreversible. The quality of life of the person suffering from this disease gets very adversely affected. Which is why it is advisable to take necessary steps in preventing Emphysema –
- Quit smoking: It is the main cause of the disease.
- Breathing fresh air: Avoid inhaling substances that may harm the lung.
Therapies cannot reverse the damage that has been done but can help with the symptoms. A patient has to undergo therapies every day, in order to maintain their health status. They may also require acute therapies once in a while when Emphysema becomes severe needing more drugs to help tide over that acute sickness.
Bronchodilators: Broncho refers to the airways and dilators refer to the fact that these drugs help these airways to open up and become bigger.
Leukotriene inhibitors: Leukotriene is an important aspect of the cascade that leads to inflammation. Inhibiting leukotriene gets rid of some of the mucus and congestion in the lungs.
Antibiotics: The patient is given antibiotics for prophylaxis which means that the disease hasn’t happened yet but we are trying to prevent it. This is done during an exacerbation, the ability to deal with an infection is very low
Steroids: They are drugs that are given to stop the inflammation process earlier in the cascade. The only problem is that even though the inflammation may be prevented, the immune system strength also gets affected.
There are pulmonary rehabilitation practices that teach breathing exercises and techniques which may help reduce shortness of breath. Emphysema is said to have no cure, but treatments can alleviate the symptoms and slow down the progression. You can take measures to prevent or slow down the disease by keeping a check on your habits and by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.