Emphysema is a chronic lung disease, usually caused by smoking, affecting the breathing of the person. The disease damages some of the air sacs in the lungs, making it hard to breathe. Emphysema is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. The common symptoms of the disease are shortness of breath, barrel-shaped chest, wheezing, fatigue and weight loss. Although emphysema has no cure, quitting smoking reduces the speed at which the disease gets worse. The prognosis of the disease is also very difficult.
It is usually marked by the sound a person affected with the disease makes while exhaling. A person with emphysema exhales as if something is obstructing his breathing. This problem of emphysema is called airflow limitation. During lung function testing, it takes someone with emphysema far longer to empty their lungs than it does a person without emphysema.
Emphysema occurs when the air sacs lining in the lungs gets damaged. The lining is very is very thin and may get damaged beyond repair by the toxins in cigarette smoke create the damage.
Once the tissues between the air sacs are damaged it leads to formation of pockets in the lungs. Once the fragile tissues between air sacs are damaged, usually by smoking, it leads to formation of air pockets in the lungs. These pockets trap air inside them which results in enlargement of lungs. All these changes make it difficult to breathe.
Most cases of emphysema are caused by cigarette smoke which causes permanent damage. If a person has emphysema from smoking, the best way to stop the lung damage is to quit smoking as soon as possible. Some people have emphysema because of a rare genetic disorder called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. The alpha-1 enzyme protects their lungs and its deficiency may lead to emphysema even without smoking.
Emphysema is a chronic, progressive disease that affects the quality of life as well as the length of life, becoming one of the leading causes of death in several parts of the world. Just like any chronic disease the prognosis of emphysema is not easy as it depends on a large number of factors.
Since there is no cure available, the focus is usually on delaying the damages and slowing down the progression of the disease. However there are treatments available that are effective and may allow a person with emphysema live a normal life.Doctors use staging systems to describe the severity and progression of emphysema. Although everyone with emphysema is unique, emphysema staging can help with prognosis.
Doctors determine the stages with the help of pulmonary function testing (PFT) where a person with emphysema breathes and blows air through a tube while airflow is measured. Therefore a person's emphysema prognosis is largely determined by PFTs. However, even the staging system can not tell what will actually happen to any person with emphysema.
Although there is no cure available for emphysema and even its accurate prognosis is almost impossible, however getting diagnosed with the disease isn't the end of life. While it can't be cured, it can be effectively managed. One can easily live a normal life with proper management of the disease following the prognosis. One thing that can be surely predicted by the prognosis is that the person needs to quit smoking. If the person continues to smoke the prognosis as well as the chances of slowing down the disease progressively.
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