Emphysema is a type of COPD, and leads to a shortness of breath. Emphysema affects lung tissue and lung elasticity in a number of ways, but mainly by damaging the alveoli and bronchioles. When the alveoli are damaged they can no longer support the bronchioles, so they collapse. Due to there being less alveoli, less oxygen will enter the bloodstream.
Cigarette smoking is one of the largest causes of emphysema, and also adds to damage as it leads to inflammation as well as alveolar damage, and increased mucus production. Symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath.
- Mucus production
A preliminary test for emphysema is using a stethoscope to listen for a hollow sound in the chest. Other tests include: Spirometer tests, X-rays, Electrocardiogram, Pulse Oximetry.
For smokers, the first treatment is to cease smoking. Medication is also used to relax muscles around the airways and anti inflammatory medication, to increase airway diameter. Oxygen therapy is also used to provide a more rapid recovery, however this is not to be used in the long-term.