Emphysema – a severe form of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – is a progressive disease that traps air in the air sacs in your lungs (alveoli) and causes hyperinflation, which makes it difficult to expel air from your lungs.

Disease overview

Image of a healthy Lung

Healthy lung

Image of healthy Lobes of Lung

 

Image of a emphysema Lung

Lung with emphysema

Image of emphysema Lobes of Lung

 

Causes

Smoking – and inhaling second-hand smoke – is the most common cause of emphysema and is thought to be responsible for 85 to 90 percent of cases. Emphysema can also be caused by occupational exposure to fumes, dust and vapors, as well as by air pollution and generic pre destination abnormalities (Alpha I Antitrypsin Deficiency).

Symptoms

Extreme shortness of breath and exercise intolerance are hallmarks of emphysema. This can make routine activities, such as walking, eating, showering and housework very challenging and may lead to depression and hopelessness.

A full list of symptoms includes:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Exercise intolerance, or a diminishment of physical activity
  • Persistent cough
  • Production of sputum or phlegm
  • Wheezing
  • Frequent respiratory infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia
  • Chest pain
  • Blueness of the fingers and lips

If you experience any of these symptoms and are not currently being treated, you should speak to your doctor immediately.

Treatment options

Emphysema cannot be cured; however, treatment may help reduce symptoms, improve quality of life, and slow progression of the disease. Your doctor can help you determine which treatment may be best for you.

Today, your emphysema treatment options include:

  • Smoking cessation
  • Medication
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation
  • Endoscopic lung volume reduction (e.g. Zephyr Endobronchial Valve)
  • Surgical lung volume reduction
  • Lung transplant