What is Emphysema?
Emphysema is a lung condition that causes shortness of breath. In people with emphysema, the air sacs in the lungs, and alveoli are damaged. Over time, the inner walls of the air sacs weaken and rupture, further creating larger air spaces instead of many small ones. This reduces the surface area of the lungs and consequently the amount of oxygen that gets into your bloodstream.
Most people with emphysema also have chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is inflammation of the tubes that bring air to the lungs, leading to a persistent cough. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the two conditions that make up a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Smoking is the main cause of COPD. (Source)
Treatment can slow the progression of COPD but cannot reverse the damage.
The main symptom of it is shortness of breath, which usually starts gradually on the other hand, emphysema eventually causes shortness of breath even when you are at rest.
- Frequently being out of breath you can’t walk up the stairs
- Lips or nails turning blue or gray with exertion
- Not being mentally alert
See your doctor if you have unexplained shortness of breath for several months, especially if it gets worse or interferes with your daily activities.
Don’t ignore it by telling yourself it’s because you’re getting old or out of shape. Seek immediate medical attention in case symptoms are severe.
The main cause of emphysema is long-term exposure to airborne irritants, including:
- Tobacco smoke or marijuana smoke
- Air pollution
- Chemical fumes and dust
Rarely, it may be caused by an inherited deficiency of a protein that protects the elastic structures in the lungs. This is called alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency emphysema.
- Smoking: The risk for all types of smokers increases with the number of years and the amount of tobacco smoked.
- Age: Although the lung damage that occurs in emphysema develops gradually, most people with tobacco-related emphysema experience symptoms between the ages of 40 and 60.
- Exposure to secondhand smoke: Secondhand smoke, also known as second-hand or environmental tobacco smoke, is smoke you inadvertently inhale from someone else’s cigarette, pipe, or cigar. Passive smoking increases the risk of emphysema.
- Similarly, exposure to indoor and outdoor pollution: Breathing indoor pollutants, such as fumes from heating fuel, and outdoor pollutants such as car exhaust increase the risk of emphysema.
- Pneumothorax is a condition that can be life-threatening in people with severe emphysema because their lung function is already compromised. This is uncommon but serious when it occurs.
- Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are lung conditions that fall under the term chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.
- Large holes in the lungs called “bullae” can be developed in some people with emphysema. They can be as large as half a lung. In addition to reducing the amount of space available for lung expansion, giant bullae can increase the risk of pneumothorax.
- Do not smoke and avoid inhaling second-hand smoke.
- If you work with chemical fumes or dust, wear a mask to protect your lungs.
- Install air purifiers at homes if necessary.
- Keep doctor and medical staff details handy for emergency purposes.