Emphysema, a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease of the lungs, affects millions of senior citizens in the United States every year. It is caused mainly by the direct or secondary smoking of cigarettes and marijuana, and by prolonged exposure to high pollution, chemical fumes and irritants like soaps, detergents, acids or wood dust.
This irreversible condition – emphysema – affects the free movement of oxygen in the lungs. Emphysema also causes the alveoli in the lungs to break, thus leading to shortness of breath and also reducing the flexibility of the lungs. Symptoms of emphysema include coughing, breathlessness, panting, exhaustion, weight loss and/or a fast heartbeat. In extreme cases, when the reduced flow of oxygen in the body makes the patient’s lips and fingernails turn bluish grey, immediate medical attention must be provided.
While hordes of medicines, multifarious therapies and exceptionally, even surgeries are prescribed for emphysema, these can only reduce the symptoms and weaken the advancement of the disease considerably, the condition itself is not curable. Taken either orally or inhaled with the help of nebulizers, the medicine choices for treating emphysema include short-acting and long-acting bronchodilators that help open up air passages, thus making breathing easier and relieving both sporadic and incessant symptoms of coughing, wheezing and breathlessness. Corticosteroids treat and help prevent the sudden outburst of asthma, and antibiotics that fight infections are also recommended for preventing the condition from aggravating and becoming life-threatening. In rare and severe cases of emphysema, one of the three types of lung surgeries – lung volume reduction surgery where small parts of the damaged lung are removed, lung transplant where the entire lung is replaced, and bullectomy – is resorted to when all other treatments fail to help ease the symptoms of emphysema.
Oxygen treatment, ventilation devices that help patients breathe better, pulmonary therapy to help maintain or recover lung function, exercises like Yoga, Pranayama, and TaiChi, eating foods rich in vitamins A, C, and E, building up immunity against infections with vaccinations, are all medications and treatments recommended to strengthen breathing and improve the overall health of people suffering from emphysema.