Emphysema 2018-02-23T08:24:29-06:00


Damaged Air Sacs in the Lungs

How Does Emphysema Occur?

Emphysema occurs when the air sacs in your lungs gradually become damaged, and smoking is one of these leading causes.

When the small sacs (alveoli) become damaged, the walls rupture, causing one big space in the lungs instead of many small ones. This makes it harder to breathe because the surface are of the lungs is reduced.  In turn, there is less oxygen that reaches the blood. Eventually, the alveoli don’t work properly, and when you try to exhale, air gets trapped in the lungs and fresh oxygen has no room to enter.

Symptoms of Emphysema

Unfortunately, symptoms of emphysema can creep up on you, and before you know it, shortness of breath can get in the way of completing daily activities.  You may notice that you start avoiding more active things that cause you to be short for breath.  As conditions worsen, emphysema can even cause you to be short of breath while you sleep.

  • Have difficulty climbing stairs due to shortness of breath
  • You have mental fog
  • Your fingernails and lips turn blue with exertion

Causes of Emphysema – Prolonged Exposure to Irritants

  • Air Pollution
  • Manufacturing Fumes
  • Marijuana Smoke
  • Tobacco Smoke

When To See A Doctor

If, for several months, you have had shortness of breath, you definitely need to see a doctor as soon as possible.  If symptoms are getting worse too, that is another sign to see a doctor. It’s misleading to think that your age or weight could be the reason.

Treatments & Medication

Depending upon the severity of your symptoms, your doctor might suggest medications, which include antibiotics to help fight any infection, or inhaled steroids to help relieve shortness of breath.  Bronchodilators are another option, which relax restricted airways, to help reduce coughing and shortness of breath.

3 Main Therapy Options For Emphysema

  • Pulmonary Rehabilitation – Teaches you breathing techniques and exercises to help reduce breathlessness and help increase your breathing stamina while exercising.
  • Supplemental Oxygen – If your blood oxygen levels drop to low home oxygen is an option.
  • Nutrition Therapy – Used to assist you in losing weight during the beginning stages of emphysema.

Is Surgery an Option?

If emphysema is severe, you may need a lung transplant and other options have failed.


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