Life with Emphysema – What It Is and What to Change
Emphysema is a chronic lung disease. It is one of the common chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) that cause extreme shortness of breath. It is a condition in which the air sacs or alveoli of the lungs are damaged and over time the condition worsens.
The inner walls of the alveoli and the tissue between these sacs get damaged. This creates air pockets, but with the progress of the disease, the process of oxygen absorption through the lungs decreases considerably. This reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood. Similarly, the patient finds it difficult to exhale oxygen-depleted air.Emphysema could be genetically inherited, but a large number of patients are chronic smokers or are exposed to irritants such as dust and smoke on a regular basis. In fact, smokers are about 6 times more likely than non-smokers to develop Emphysema.
The disease has also been linked to severe deficiency of AAT (Alpha-1 antitrypsin) which is a protein that naturally occurs in a healthy person. The AAT keeps infection-fighting white blood cells from attacking and destroying healthy tissues.
Living with Emphysema
It is important to understand that Emphysema is a progressive disease with no known cure. There are, however, steps that can be taken to retard the progress of the disease and to increase the life expectancy of the patient. The first step is to eliminate all factors that may hasten the progress such as exposure to dust, smoke, and pollen, and to give up smoking. If the patient is a smoker, simply quitting the habit immediately will increase the life expectancy considerably and bring about some amount of relief from the symptoms.
The progress of a COPD disease such as Emphysema can be managed, and the patient can be made more comfortable with treatment programs including medication, use of inhalers, oxygen tanks with or without a Bain circuit, and nebulizers. In some cases, the doctor may suggest surgery to remove a part of the damaged lung tissue. This could also help prolong life expectancy and bring relief to the patient.
As with most chronic ailments, early detection plays a key role in the management of Emphysema. The patient and primary caregiver need to be educated about the disease and warning signs. Prompt treatment needs to be initiated and the patient need to be kept away from irritants. These measures by themselves will help in maximising the life expectancy and improve the life quality of the patient.
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