by: Ronaldo V. Mendoza, MD, MBA-H - Medical
Emphysema is a progressive chronic lung disease that manifests as an irreversible damage to the air sacs in our lungs due to cigarette smoking. Experts have attributed the worsening air pollution in the country as a major contributory factor. The air sacs in our lungs are vital structures where gas exchange happens. Blood enters the air sacs and gets oxygenated to be distributed back to our vital organs. In patients with emphysema, the air sacs become thinner, brittle and weak. This irreversible damage to the air sacs traps the old air and prevents fresh oxygen-rich air to enter. This causes breathlessness / shortness of breath and progressive difficulty of breathing.
For many years, a chronic smoker is not affected by the gradual deterioration of the air sacs. But as the years progress, the damage to the air sacs due to smoking worsens. The initial signs are shortness of breath and easy fatigability. In due time, this may interfere with daily work routine causing irritation and frustration. The chronic smoker will only realize the need to stop the habit upon the development of symptoms. In most cases, it may be too late because the damage is already irreversible.
It is important to seek medical help if a chronic smoker has shortness of breath, bluish discoloration of lips and nails, impairment of mental alertness. Medications will not treat the disease completely but will only delay the progression of symptoms. The advent of new medications delivered using high technology medical devices has alleviated symptoms of emphysema patients. Management of patients has been aided by devices have improved the delivery of medications, assuring that the recommended dose for the patient is given.
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Several risk factors include cigarette smoking, age, and exposure to second hand smoke, occupational exposure to fumes, dusts and pollution. Complications related to emphysema include pneumothorax or collapsed lung, Heart Problems and Giant Bullae or large holes in the lungs.
It is important to seek a qualified medical professional if you experience signs and symptoms of emphysema. Early diagnosis and treatment will be beneficial in delaying the progression of this irreversible disease. Quality of life is expected to be improved and with the presence of high technology medicines, the future may not be so bad.