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Pulmonary emphysema


The emphysema is a disease that develops in the lung tissue due to dilatation of alveoli or destruction of their walls which are very thin and fragile. The body does not receive the oxygen it really needs, so patients have great difficulty breathing, as well as catching their breath.

What is it?

Emphysema is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease characterized by the destruction of lung tissue; it occurs in the vast majority of cases on account of tobacco.

The air sacs are over-inflated, thus causing the removal of the alveolar walls, which significantly impairs respiratory function; patients with pulmonary emphysema feel short of breath or have great difficulty catching their breath after exertion.

It is worth noting that airbag walls are very thin and extremely brittle. Therefore, all the injuries that take place in them are irreversible.

What types of pulmonary emphysema are there?

There are two types of pulmonary emphysema, each with its own characteristics and causes.

  • Centroacinar emphysema: the cause of this type of condition is tobacco. The destruction of the tissue occurs mainly in the bronchi, so that the emphysema is located in the upper part of the lung.
  • Panacinar emphysema: in this case, tissue destruction occurs in all areas where there is gas exchange. In this case, the emphysema is located in the lower part of the lung.

Causes of pulmonary emphysema

In the vast majority of patients with this disease, the cause of it is tobacco smoke ; pulmonary emphysema appears after years of exposure to it. Of course, it can also occur due to prolonged exposure over time to other external agents that are harmful to the respiratory system , such as pollution.

Pulmonary emphysema is a condition that progresses gradually . Patients go to the doctor concerned because they feel short of breath when they perform high or moderate intensity physical exercise. As the condition progresses, just walking may be enough to make it difficult for patients to breathe.

What are the symptoms of pulmonary emphysema?

There are a number of signs that are worth paying attention to because they can alert you to this disease. The main symptom of pulmonary emphysema, and which occurs in practically 100% of cases, is respiratory distress . Sometimes this is accompanied by a chronic cough and the presence of whistling.

As the disease progresses, it affects other areas of the body beyond the respiratory system; patients may experience swelling in the legs and ankles, as well as weight loss for no apparent reason.

Diagnosis and treatment

Patients with pulmonary emphysema see a doctor when they feel short of breath. Well, once the medical history is established, the next step is to perform a physical test in which the doctor can check if there is any type of whistling or if the sounds of the respiratory system have decreased.

Additionally, the doctor may order complementary tests to determine the diagnosis, such as spirometry or a chest X-ray.Once the diagnosis is confirmed, treatment largely depends on the degree of respiratory obstruction: mild, moderate, or severe . Treatment combines bronchodilator drugs, antibiotics, and a series of exercises to rehabilitate the lungs. In addition, to expel secretions it is important to drink a large amount of liquid. Of course, in the case of smokers, it is essential to stop smoking.

You may also be interested in:   Pneumothorax

Below we will explain some of the different treatment options that exist.


Surgery, known as lung volume reduction, can only be performed in the early stages of the disease. The areas most affected by pulmonary emphysema are removed so that the lungs and the rest of the muscles that make up the respiratory system work better.

In extreme cases, you can also opt for a lung transplant . An option that is only valid in patients under 50 years of age.

Oxygen Therapy

In the most severe cases of pulmonary emphysema, oxygen therapy is also a valid treatment. It basically consists of the administration of oxygen, hospital or home.

The apparatus that supplies oxygen is made up of three elements: cannula, oxygen cylinders and mask. The cannula is a tube that connects to the oxygen cylinder and is inserted into both nostrils. The mask is a complement; it radiates oxygen through the naso-buccal area, so that the nostrils are not so irritated. Some patients use the cannula during the day and the mask at night.


Patients with mild pulmonary emphysema can use an inhaler at times when they feel short of breath. Its use is very simple: shake the inhaler, exhale for a couple of seconds, place the inhaler in your mouth and inhale slowly, press the end of the inhaler at the same time as you begin to swallow, and finally, inhale slowly until you feel like your lungs are full.


As we have pointed out, any type of alteration in the lung structure cannot be repaired , not even with treatment. Therefore, the prognosis for this disease is not very favorable.

The main objective of the treatment is to increase the life expectancy of the patients . Those smoking patients have a mean life expectancy of 48 years. Meanwhile, those who do not smoke, their life expectancy can be extended to 67 years.

Another factor that determines the prognosis of patients is the phase in which the disease is diagnosed. If the diagnosis is made at an advanced stage, life expectancy is markedly reduced.

Tips to prevent pulmonary emphysema

There are a number of tips that are worth taking into account to greatly reduce contracting this disease.

  • Stop smoking: as we have pointed out, tobacco is the main cause of this condition. Quitting smoking has great benefits for the body in general, and for the respiratory system in particular.
  • Avoid smoke: one of the environmental causes that give rise to this disease over time is the inhalation of tobacco. Therefore, it is advisable to avoid this type of environment as much as possible.
  • Avoid dangerous confictions: 10% of patients with emphysema develop this disease after a prolonged period of time exposed to dangerous conditions in their natural environment: industrial dust, gaseous vapors, metal gases … It is essential to adopt all safety measures and precautions.
  • See a doctor: pulmonary emphysema is a condition that has several stages and degrees; life expectancy is indirectly related to the stage of the disease. Therefore, at the slightest symptom it is important to see a doctor immediately.


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Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of ​​Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.

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