One of the diseases known as COPD, emphysema damages the air sacs in your lungs, causing shortness of breath that worsens over time.
Though emphysema is irreversible, our team of among the best pulmonary doctors Los Angeles has available is able to slow the progression of the disease – controlling your symptoms and allowing you to enjoy an improved quality of life.
It’s possible to have emphysema without experiencing any symptoms for a number of years. When symptoms do occur, the primary sign of the disease is shortness of breath in individuals between the ages of 40 and 60. This symptom typically begins gradually and worsens over time. As the disease progresses, you will eventually feel short of breath while at rest. Early treatment is critical to slowing down the progression of emphysema, so if you’re experiencing any shortness of breath, it’s important to make an appointment with a specialist to identify the underlying cause.
What causes emphysema?
When emphysema develops, it causes the air sacs in your lungs to weaken and eventually rupture. When you exhale, the damaged air sacs can’t move the air properly, causing it to become trapped and leaving no room for fresh oxygen to enter.
Smoking is the number one cause of emphysema, and individuals are at risk for developing the condition if they are current or former smokers or have exposure to secondhand smoke. In addition, air pollution, fumes and exposure to certain chemicals are also known to contribute to the development of the disease. In very rare cases, emphysema may also develop as an inherited genetic disorder. As some of the best pulmonary doctors Long Beach has to offer, we will work closely with you to determine exactly what caused the disease to develop, as well as determine an appropriate treatment plan to halt its progression.
How is emphysema diagnosed?
Effective treatment for emphysema begins with a definitive diagnosis – something we are vastly experienced in providing as some of the best pulmonary specialists Long Beach has to offer. To begin the diagnostic process, we will collect detailed information about the symptoms you’re experiencing, as well as your medical and family history. We will then order a number of tests to aid in making a diagnosis, including:
Chest x-ray or CT scan
These imaging tests will allow us to diagnose emphysema and identify any associated damage.
A special blood test can help us diagnose emphysema by measuring how well your lungs transfer oxygen into your bloodstream.
To measure the function of your lungs, we may also perform a spirometry. During this painless test, you will blow as hard as you can into a tube connected to a small machine called a spirometer. This machine will then measure the function of your lungs and allow us to confirm a diagnosis of emphysema.
How is emphysema treated?
As our doctors are among the best pulmonary specialists Los Angeles has to offer, we are vastly experienced in treating patients with emphysema – slowing the progression of the disease and relieving your symptoms. Though there is not yet a cure for this condition, relief is possible with the proper care, which usually requires a multi-step approach involving medications, therapy and surgery.
Medications can be very helpful in relieving the symptoms associated with your emphysema. These include bronchodilators to relax the airways, inhaled steroids to relieve shortness of breath and antibiotics to treat bacterial infections, such as pneumonia or acute bronchitis.
Therapy like pulmonary rehabilitation and nutritional counseling are also helpful tools in managing emphysema. During pulmonary rehabilitation you will learn exercises and techniques that make breathing easier, and during nutritional counseling you’ll learn how to ensure your body receives the proper nutrients to protect your lungs and fight off infections. In addition, we may also recommend oxygen treatment at home and/or during exercise.
If your emphysema is severe, we may recommend surgery, such as lung volume reduction surgery or a lung transplant.
Lifestyle changes for emphysema
Once you are diagnosed with emphysema, it’s important to make important lifestyle changes to stop the progression of the disease and prevent further complications from developing. These include:
The most important thing you can do for your lungs – and to potentially stop emphysema from progressing – is to quit smoking.
Avoid known irritants
You’ll also be advised to avoid substances that can irritate your lungs, including paint, exhaust fumes and pollution.
Staying active is an important part of managing emphysema, as it can significantly improve your lung capacity.
Protect your lungs
Moving forward, it’s important to protect your lungs by avoiding cold air and getting pneumonia vaccinations and an annual flu shot.
If you suffer from emphysema, please know that long-term relief and control is possible with treatment from among the best pulmonary specialists Orange County has available at the Lung & Allergy Institute of Los Angeles. Please contact us today to schedule an appointment, and let us help you manage your symptoms and slow the progression of this disease.Contact Us