Emphysema, the debilitating and chronic disease of the lungs, is strongly connected to smoking. Here are some of the steps that occur during the treatment of emphysema:
The first therapy your doctor will prescribe is to stop smoking. This is the single most important lifestyle change you can make to improve your health. He or she may suggest stop smoking aids such as nicotine receptor blockers or nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). Be sure you study the side effects carefully beforehand and ask your doctor any questions you may have.
Your doctor may prescribe inhalers which contain bronchodilators, which make the airway bigger, or steroids, which reduce inflammation. These drugs come with their own set of side effects as well, such as a risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and cataracts.
Lung Expansion Therapy
Next, your doctor may ask you to do pulmonary rehabilitation, which is specific breathing exercises that increase your lungs volume, or expands it, to its maximum capacity. This helps improve your ability to exercise and decreases the breathlessness that accompanies the disease.
During the course of the disease, you most likely will be placed on some sort of supplemental oxygen. This may be a tank, or some patients can use a smaller machine that concentrates oxygen from the surrounding air. During this time your doctor may check to see how much oxygen is in your blood using a simple, non-invasive machine called a pulse oximeter, and will adjust the oxygen level accordingly.
Lung Volume Reduction
Because emphysema weakens the structure of the lung, damaged tissue does not contract and takes up needed space for healthy lung tissue. Lung volume reduction is a surgery to remove the damaged tissue, leaving room for the healthier tissue to expand.
In the final states of the disease, most often patients need to have a lung transplant. Most often smokers are not permitted to be on the waiting list for donor organs however.
Emphysema Symptoms and Signs