1. What is emphysema?
Emphysema is a respiratory disease in which the healthy, elastic, sponge-like tissue of the lungs is damaged. As a result, it does not squeeze the air in and out the lungs properly. It is similar to an old flabby football or a car tyre tube that has perished.
When the lungs’ elastic function is lost, it means air cannot move in and out of the lungs easily. The oxygen supply to the lungs and hence our whole body is reduced. This greatly affect the function of all the cells and organs in our body because oxygen is vital to our living. People with emphysema have to breathe harder to get more air in and out to maintain the oxygen supply to the body. If this continues, the lack of oxygen, the exhaustion of laboured breathing and the damage of the lung tissue will deteriorate. People with emphysema can become tired, exhausted and unwell.
2. What causes emphysema?
Emphysema is caused by cigarette smoking. Smoking damages the lung tissue. As time goes on, if damage continues, the lung elastic function is lost. It has been found that emphysema is approximately 13 times more common in smokers than in non-smoker. There are other irritating things that can also cause emphysema. These irritants are industrial fumes and dusts. People who work in mining and industrial towns who have been exposed to these irritants often have breathing trouble as a result of emphysema.
3. How do cigarettes affect the lungs?
When people inhale cigarette smoke, 80-90% of the cigarette smoke will remain in the lungs. The presence of tar in cigarette smoke causes irritation, inflammation, damage to the lung tissue and increased mucus production. The tar and mucus build-up in the lungs and block the airways and damage lung tissue. As a result, chronic bronchitis and emphysema are created. If you continue to smoke, the problem will get worse. If you stop smoking, the disease may stay steady or may even improve when the lung tissues repair and recover from the damage.
4. What are the risks of emphysema?
People with emphysema have breathing problems. They are more prone to have chest infections which can lead to pneumonia. When emphysema gets worse, respiratory failure and heart failure can occur. This can lead to death.
5. What are the symptoms of emphysema?
The main symptom of emphysema is shortness of breath. It can steadily get worse. The other symptoms include smokers’ cough, tiredness, lethargy, exhaustion, weakness and difficulty to clear the chest.
6. What is the treatment for emphysema?
a. Self-help measures:
· If you smoke, you should stop smoking.
· Avoid places with polluted air and other irritants, such as smoke, paint fumes,
sawdust and fine dust.
sawdust and fine dust.
· Regular exercise and keeping physically active is good for your lungs.
· Go for a walk in the fresh air.
· Get adequate rest and sleep and healthy diet and food.
· Avoid contact with people who have a cold or the flu.
· See your doctors regularly for a check-up, especially when you get a chest infection.
· Use your medications, such as puffers if you have any wheezes or chest tightness
· Visit your doctor without delay if you get a cold or bronchitis or coughing up
· You may need antibiotics to clear your chest infection.
· Have your regular flu vaccination as recommended by your doctor.