The Fact That Emphysema Often Attacks Smokers – The air sacs weaken and eventually burst, which reduces the surface area of the lungs and the amount of oxygen that can reach the bloodstream. As a result, a person has difficulty breathing, especially when exercising. In addition, emphysema causes the lungs to lose elasticity.
Both of these diseases are caused by damage to the lungs and bronchial tubes. Launching WebMD, emphysema and chronic bronchitis is the third cause of death in the United States (US).
According to data from the American Lung Association (ALA), more than 4.5 million people in the United States were diagnosed with emphysema in 2011, the majority of whom were over 65 years of age at diagnosis. Men and women have the same risk.
To be aware of this dangerous disease, here are the facts about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and ways of treating and preventing emphysema that you need to know.
1. Tobacco smoking is a major cause of emphysema
According to data from ALA, smoking kills more than 480,000 US residents in a year, and about 80 percent is caused by COPD, including emphysema. Even so, not everyone who smokes has emphysema.
In addition, according to a study published in 2002, individuals with small airways that are proportional to the size of their lungs are likely to be at higher risk of developing emphysema, compared to those with wider airways.
One more thing, emphysema cannot be passed from one person to another.
2. Cough and shortness of breath are early symptoms of emphysema
Some people with emphysema may not even realize that they have the disease, even for years. However, when symptoms appear, they usually start with a cough and shortness of breath, especially when you are exercising or doing other physical activities.
These symptoms will continue to get worse until it is difficult to breathe all the time, even when you are resting. Some of the other symptoms that will appear include:
- Weight loss.
- Fast heartbeat.
People with emphysema may also develop bluish-gray lips or nails due to lack of oxygen. If these symptoms appear, seek medical attention immediately.
3. Diagnosis of emphysema
In the process of diagnosis, the doctor will check the patient’s medical history, ask whether the patient is a smoker or not, or whether the patient is in the presence of smoke or dangerous pollutants both at home and at work.
In addition, launching Healthline, doctors will also perform several tests to make the diagnosis of emphysema easier, such as:
- Imaging tests: such as X-rays and CT scans to look at the patient’s lungs.
- Blood test: to determine how well the patient’s lungs are transferring oxygen.
- Pulse oximetry: to measure the oxygen content in the patient’s blood.
- Lung function test: often involves blowing a device called a spirometer to measure how much air the patient’s lungs can inhale and exhale, and how well the patient’s lungs deliver oxygen to their bloodstream.
- Arterial blood gas test: to measure the amount of blood and carbon dioxide in the patient’s blood.
- Electrocardiogram (EKG): to check heart function and rule out
4. Treatment aims to relieve symptoms and slow the progression of the disease
There is no cure for emphysema. Treatment from doctors aims to relieve symptoms and inhibit disease progression. Doctors usually provide drugs, therapy, or even surgery when needed.
If the patient is a smoker, the first treatment is to quit smoking.
- Bronchodilators: help open airways, make breathing easier, and
- relieve coughs and shortness of breath.
- Steroids: relieves shortness of breath.
- Antibiotics: fight infections that can make the condition worse.
Pulmonary therapy or light exercise such as walking can strengthen breathing muscles and relieve emphysema symptoms, so that the patient will breathe easier and be more physically active.
Additionally, yoga, tai chi, and deep breathing exercises can help relieve symptoms. Oxygen therapy can also help make breathing easier. Patients with severe emphysema may need 24 hours of oxygen.
Lung removal surgery can be used to remove a small part of the lung that is damaged, while a lung transplant can replace the entire lung. However, it is a rare operation that is only performed for patients with severe emphysema.
Emphysema patients are often underweight. Therefore, doctors will recommend that patients eat foods rich in vitamins A, C, and E, such as fruits and vegetables to improve their overall health.
To overcome this, doctors usually recommend that patients join a support group that can help them connect with other people who also have emphysema, so they can share similar experiences. This can help the patient realize that he is not alone in fighting the disease.
5. Prevention of emphysema
Since smoking is the main cause of emphysema, the best way to prevent it is to not smoke or quit smoking now. In addition, there are several other ways to prevent emphysema, such as:
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Build and maintain moderate weight.
- Avoid air pollution whenever possible.
- Take steps to prevent infection such as receiving routine vaccinations.
That’s a row of facts about emphysema, a disease that often attacks smokers. If you experience symptoms of emphysema, you should immediately consult a doctor. The sooner this chronic disease is diagnosed and treated properly, the greater the life expectancy.