Emphysema is a serious illness and a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or “COPD.” The airways that carry air to the lungs become narrow and damaged in COPD. Symptoms commonly noted in emphysema include:
- Shortness of breath, especially when ambulatory
- Wheezing (whistling noise when breathing)
- Cough with production of mucus
The most common causes for emphysema include:
- Environmental causes: breathing in toxic fumes/gases
In hereditary emphysema, you may lack a protein called Alpha-1 Antitrypsin (AAT). It is a protein found in the lungs and blood and helps protect the lung lining. Blood work can be done to assess whether there is a deficiency in this protein. In this particular case, emphysema may be detected at a young age (30s or 40s).
Patients with emphysema are at a higher risk for easily getting infections of the lung, lung cancer, and heart issues. For this reason, diagnosis and treatment is important to prevent complications. Imaging may be necessary to determine if you have had any complications from emphysema.
Diagnosis of emphysema may be done via a test called spirometry and depending on cause, possibly the above blood test also. Symptoms of emphysema may completely resolve with treatment or come and go throughout life. Treatment of emphysema may include steroid pills, steroid inhalers, oxygen, pulmonary rehabilitation, and rarely surgery. Please consult a healthcare provider today to determine the best treatment for you. Meanwhile, if you smoke, please stop smoking because it will reduce the severity of emphysema and get a flu vaccine every year.