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What You Need to Know About Emphysema

Coughing Old Man
Emphysema is a disorder that affects the functioning of your lungs. Over time, the condition damages the alveoli (air sacs) in your lungs and decreases how much oxygen reaches your body's blood stream. Common symptoms include shortness of breath, mental fogginess, coughing, and blueness in the extremities. 
However, emphysema can also be asymptomatic, especially in the early stages. Read on to learn important information about living life with emphysema. 

Emphysema Has a Multitude of Causes and Contributing Risk Factors

Most individuals associate emphysema with the long-term smoking of cigarettes. While smoking cigarettes is definitely one of the leading causes of COPD diseases like emphysema, there are numerous contributing factors. Any type of smoking activity, including pipes and marijuana, can result in emphysema.
When you smoke, it destroys the lining of your alveoli because the irritants from whatever substance you smoke harm the lungs. Exposure to secondhand smoke, hazardous workplace fumes, and pollution may also contribute to emphysema.
Some patients have an Alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency. AAT is a protein that prevents white blood cells (the cells that help fight off infection) from damaging healthy body tissues. Inadequate AAT means that your body's own white blood cells may harm your lung tissue. 
Another risk factor for emphysema is your age. Emphysema is most common in people between 40 and 60 years of age. Though getting older does not cause emphysema, it does mean that you have had more exposure to possible risk factors. 

Properly Managing Emphysema Can Extend Your Life 

A misconception regarding emphysema is that it is fatal. Emphysema does shorten your lifespan. However, there are steps you can take to manage the condition, improve your quality of life, and extend your lifespan. How you manage your emphysema depends on the severity of your condition.
Regardless of how advanced your emphysema is, you should stop smoking immediately. If your emphysema is in the early stages, then your doctor might suggest that you attend pulmonary therapy. The goal of these sessions is to help you improve your breathing technique so that you can breathe as efficiently as possible. Prescription medications are another common treatment.
Bronchodilators expand the airways, making it easier for you to breathe. If your lungs have excessive inflammation, then steroids will assist your body in getting the inflammation under control.
For severe emphysema, you may need to supplement your breathing with the use of an oxygen tank. Surgery to remove damaged portions of your lung is another treatment for advanced cases. A lung transplant is still another option for critical cases.

Emphysema and Sleep Apnea Can Occur Simultaneously

Some patients suffer from both emphysema and sleep apnea. This is a disorder known as overlap condition. Unfortunately, the overlap condition makes it extremely hard to manage the symptoms of your emphysema. The resulting sleep deprivation from your poor sleep also puts you at risk for numerous conditions. Sleep deprivation is associated with many health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, diabetes, depression, and excessive weight gain. 
Your body needs quality sleep to restore its tissues and systems. Sleep apnea will ultimately make your emphysema symptoms worse because your lung tissue continues to deteriorate.
In addition to managing the symptoms of your emphysema, your doctor will also take steps to improve your sleep apnea. Possible treatments include weight loss and the use of a CPAP machine. Surgery is another option if you have tissue throughout the airway that obstructs your breathing.
Having trouble managing your emphysema? Contact Onslow Medical Specialties Clinic today to schedule an appointment. We can help you take the necessary steps to improve the symptoms of your emphysema so that you can achieve a higher quality of life.