Pulmonary emphysema: understand what it is and how it is treatment


What is Emphysema

Emphysema, also known as pulmonary emphysema , is a non-contagious COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) caused by great exposure to polluting and / or chemical agents that end up damaging the pulmonary alveoli. In 80% of cases, tobacco is the main cause of the disease.

As much as we don’t realize it, we are exposed to degenerating agents practically all day, such as pollution, dust, bacteria that are present in the air and cigarette smoke – even when we are not smokers. And all of this ends up influencing the functioning of our respiratory system

How does Emphysema develop?

With the inhalation of the agents that cause the disease, the air sacs present in our lungs (alveoli) are drastically affected, which ends up causing difficulty in making the gas exchanges of our breathing.

With the destruction of these areas, the exchange of oxygen (02) with carbon dioxide (CO2) does not happen the way it should, reducing the amount of oxygen circulating in the blood and causing the person to be short of breath.

What are the causative agents of Emphysema?

Almost all cases are derived from heavy and prolonged tobacco use, but there are also other causes of the disease, such as inhaling toxic debris and gases in the workplace and genetics. In addition, there is another cause, albeit rarer, which is the absence of an enzyme produced in the lungs called alpha-1-anthripsin.

In addition to these causes, there are also some risk factors that can help in the development of emphysema:

  • Environment pollution;
  • Malnutrition;
  • Respiratory infections;
  • Low temperature;
  • Family history of DPOC.

How do I know if I have Emphysema?

Usually, this lung disease has very characteristic symptoms, sometimes even similar to those of chronic bronchitis – which, incidentally, is not the same, since bronchitis obstructs the bronchi and, emphysema, the alveoli.

Symptoms include constant coughing and shortness of breath, caused by hypoventilation, but in addition to these there are other symptoms that may appear:

  • Frequent lung infections;
  • Mucus production;
  • Appetite reduction;
  • Fatigue (tiredness);
  • Weight loss;
  • Difficulty sleeping;
  • Arterial hypertension;
  • In more advanced cases of the disease, deformities in the nails can occur due to low oxygen concentration.

You can also look at your appearance if you suspect emphysema. If you are very thin, you have an enlarged rib cage and you always breathe as if you are blowing something, be careful. See a pulmonologist, a doctor who specializes in lung disease, as soon as possible to receive proper treatment.

What is the diagnosis and treatment of Emphysema?

The diagnosis of emphysema is linked to that of COPD and it can be done through 3 exams.

  • Chest radiography: identifies if there is hyperinflation and air bubbles inside the lungs.
  • Arterial blood gases: analysis of oxygen and carbon dioxide values ​​circulating in the patient’s blood.
  • Spirometry or pulmonary function test: the best to diagnose not only this disease, but other COPD as well, this test consists of the patient breathing through a tube while a computer records various respiratory parameters.

Once the diagnosis is made, it’s time for treatment. As much as emphysema has no cure, it can be controlled almost completely. For this, 6 types of treatment can be performed.

Medications such as inalants

The bronchodilators are medicines that relax the muscles of the bronchi and improve the airflow of the patient. In addition to them, the doctor may also prescribe corticosteroids , which alleviate the symptoms of lung inflammation.

Oral treatment

Other medications can be prescribed for those who have pulmonary emphysema, such as antibiotics , which prevent possible more serious infections, and mucolytics , to decrease the mucus formed due to obstruction of the respiratory channels.

Oxygen therapy

Not all pulmonary emphysema patients need to have this treatment, but you need to be aware that as the disease progresses, the need for oxygen increases. Therefore, the use of oxygen by medical intervention can also occur.

Pulmonary surgery and rehabilitation

Surgery may be a good option for those with advanced emphysema. It consists of decreasing lung volume, which helps to reduce the symptoms of the disease, and in extremely severe cases, lung transplantation is also an alternative.

Depending on your clinical condition, the doctor may indicate pulmonary rehabilitation, which is nothing more than exercises that strengthen your lungs. In addition, you can also interact with other people who have the disease through sessions, thereby increasing your well-being and self-esteem.

Alternative treatments

There are some natural treatments that can help to decrease the frequent symptoms of emphysema, such as:

  • Sulfur was identified as a helper when it comes to reducing inflammation and the mucus generated by it;
  • The biloba ginkgo helps strengthen the lungs;
  • Some professionals recommend the use of grape seed extract, as it is believed that it can help to reduce cell destruction in smokers.


NEVER self-medicate or stop using a medication without first consulting a doctor. Only he will be able to tell which medication, dosage and duration of treatment is the most suitable for his specific case. The information contained on this site is only intended to inform, not in any way intended to replace the guidance of a specialist or serve as a recommendation for any type of treatment. Always follow the instructions on the package insert and, if symptoms persist, seek medical or pharmaceutical advice.

What are the complications of Emphysema?

People diagnosed with pulmonary emphysema are more likely to develop the following complications:

  • Heart problems caused by increased pressure in the arteries that connect the heart and lungs.
  • Large holes in the lungs that in addition to reducing the space available for the lung to expand, increase a person’s chance of developing pneumothorax (lung collapse).
  • As rare as they are, lung collapses can affect emphysematous people because of the obstruction that is already in their lungs.

Pulmonary emphysema and COPD are serious diseases and information about them needs to be discussed and disseminated. In addition, the prevention of emphysema is very important and basically consists of avoiding exposure to the agents that cause the disease – and if you are a smoker, quitting is already a big step!

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