Emphysema is damage to the air
sacs in your lungs. In a healthy person, the tiny air sacs in the lungs are
like balloons. As you breathe in and out, they get bigger and smaller to move
air through your lungs. With emphysema, these air sacs lose their stretch. Less oxygen gets into your blood and you feel short of
Emphysema is a form of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease). Emphysema is usually caused by smoking. But chemical fumes, dust, or
air pollution also can cause it over time. People who get it in their 30s or
40s may have a disorder that runs in families, called alpha-1 antitrypsin
deficiency. But this is rare.
Emphysema gets worse over time.
You cannot undo the damage to your lungs.
Over time, you may find
But there are things you can do to prevent more damage and
The main symptoms of emphysema are:
At times, your symptoms may suddenly flare up and get much
worse. This is a called an exacerbation (say "egg-ZASS-er-BAY-shun"). When this
happens, your usual symptoms quickly get worse and stay bad. This can be
dangerous. You may have to go to the hospital.
Don't smoke. That is the best way to keep emphysema from getting worse. If you
already smoke, it is never too late to stop. If you need help quitting, talk to
your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your
chances of quitting for good.
You can do other things to keep
emphysema from getting worse:
Emphysema is treated with medicines and oxygen. You also can take
steps at home to stay healthy and keep your condition from getting
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and
call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your
test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter L488 in the search box to learn more about "Learning About Emphysema."
Current as of:
May 23, 2016
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
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