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WHAT IS EMPHYSEMA? Emphysema is a condition in which there is over-inflation of structures in the lungs known as alveoli or air sacs. This over-inflation results from a breakdown of the walls of the alveoli, which causes a decrease in respiratory function (the way the lungs work) and often, breathlessness. Early symptoms of emphysema include shortness of breath and cough. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis together comprise chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). HOW SERIOUS IS EMPHYSEMA? Emphysema is a widespread disease of the lungs. Close to 3 million Americans have been diagnosed with emphysema. Emphysema ranks 15th among chronic conditions that contribute to activity limitations: almost 44 percent of individuals with emphysema report that their daily activities have been limited by the disease. Men tend to have higher rates of emphysema. In 2001, the emphysema prevalence rate was 40% higher in males compared to females. CAUSES OF EMPHYSEMA It is known from scientific research that the normal lung has a remarkable balance between two classes of chemicals with opposing action. ...read more.


The lungs also lose their elasticity, which is important to keep airways open. The patient experiences great difficulty exhaling. Emphysema doesn't develop suddenly, it comes on very gradually. Years of exposure to the irritation of cigarette smoke usually precede the development of emphysema. A person may initially visit the doctor because he or she has begun to feel short of breath during activity or exercise. As the disease progresses, a brief walk can be enough to bring on difficulty in breathing. Some people may have had chronic bronchitis before developing emphysema. TREATMENT FOR EMPHYSEMA Doctors can help persons with emphysema live more comfortably with their disease. The goal of treatment is to provide relief of symptoms and prevent progression of the disease with a minimum of side effects. The doctor's advice and treatment may include: Quitting smoking: the single most important factor for maintaining healthy lungs. Bronchodilator drugs (prescription drugs that relax and open air passages in the lungs): may be prescribed to treat emphysema if there is a tendency toward airway constriction or tightening. These drugs may be inhaled as aerosol sprays or taken orally. ...read more.


If an individual has emphysema, the doctor will work hard to prevent the disease from getting worse by keeping the patient healthy and clear of any infection. The patient can participate inthis prevention effort by following these general health guidelines: Emphysema is a serious disease. It damages your lungs, and it can damage your heart. See your doctor at the first sign of symptoms. DON'T SMOKE. The majority of those who get emphysema are smokers. Continued smoking makes emphysema worse, especially for those who have AAT deficiency, the inherited form of emphysema. Maintain overall good health habits, which include proper nutrition, adequate sleep,and regular exercise to build up your stamina and resistance to infections. Reduce your exposure to air pollution, which may aggravate symptoms of emphysema. Refer to radio or television weather reports or your local newspaper for information about air quality. On days when the ozone (smog) level is unhealthy, restrict your activity to early morning or evening. When pollution levels are dangerous, remain indoors and stay as comfortable as possible. Consult your doctor at the start of any cold or respiratory infection because infection can make your emphysema symptoms worse. Ask about getting vaccinated against influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia. ...read more.

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