Emphysema is a disease of the lungs that usually develops after many years of smoking. Both chronic bronchitis and emphysema belong to a group of lung diseases known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Once it develops, emphysema can’t be reversed. This is why not smoking or stopping smoking is very important.
Emphysema is a condition that involves damage to the walls of the air sacs (alveoli) of the lung. Alveoli are small, thin-walled, very fragile air sacs located in clusters at the end of the bronchial tubes deep inside the lungs. There are about 300 million alveoli in normal lungs. As you breathe in air, the alveoli stretch, drawing oxygen in and transporting it to the blood. When you exhale, the alveoli shrink, forcing carbon dioxide out of the body.
When emphysema develops, the alveoli and lung tissue are destroyed. With this damage, the alveoli cannot support the bronchial tubes. The tubes collapse and cause an “obstruction” (a blockage), which traps air inside the lungs. Too much air trapped in the lungs can give some patients a barrel-chested appearance. Also, because there are fewer alveoli, less oxygen will be able to move into the bloodstream.
The main cause of emphysema is long-term exposure to airborne irritants, including:
Chemical fumes and dust
Rarely, emphysema is caused by an inherited deficiency of a protein that protects the elastic structures in the lungs. It's called alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency emphysema.
Factors that increase your risk of developing emphysema include:
Smoking. Emphysema is most likely to develop in cigarette smokers, but cigar and pipe smokers also are susceptible. The risk for all types of smokers increases with the number of years and amount of tobacco smoked.
Age. Although the lung damage that occurs in emphysema develops gradually, most people with tobacco-related emphysema begin to experience symptoms of the disease between the ages of 40 and 60.
Exposure to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke, also known as passive or environmental tobacco smoke, is smoke that you inadvertently inhale from someone else's cigarette, pipe or cigar. Being around secondhand smoke increases your risk of emphysema.
Occupational exposure to fumes or dust. If you breathe fumes from certain chemicals or dust from grain, cotton, wood or mining products, you're more likely to develop emphysema. This risk is even greater if you smoke.
Exposure to indoor and outdoor pollution. Breathing indoor pollutants, such as fumes from heating fuel, as well as outdoor pollutants, car exhaust, for instance, increases your risk of emphysema.
Symptoms of Emphysema
Symptoms of emphysema may include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and an increased production of mucus. Often times, symptoms may not be noticed until 50 percent or more of the lung tissue has been destroyed. Until then, the only symptoms may be a gradual development of shortness of breath and tiredness (fatigue), which can be mistaken for other illnesses. People who develop emphysema have an increased risk of pneumonia, bronchitis, and other lung infections. See your doctor if any of these symptoms arise:
Shortness of breath, especially during light exercise or climbing steps
Ongoing feeling of not being able to get enough air
Long-term cough or “smoker’s cough”
Long-term mucus production
Diagnosis of Emphysema
In making a diagnosis of emphysema, your doctor will start by conducting a thorough medical examination, recording your medical history and asking about any symptoms you are experiencing.
The following tests may then be conducted to make a definite diagnosis:
Pulmonary Function Testing (PFT) This test involves a series of breathing maneuvers that measure the airflow and volume of air in your lungs. This allows your doctor to objectively assess the function of your lungs.
High Resolution Computed Tomography (HRCT) This is a special type of CT scan that provides your doctor with high-resolution images of your lungs. Having a HRCT is no different than having a regular CT scan; they both are performed on an open-air table and take only a few minutes.
Chest X-Ray Chest X-rays can help confirm a diagnosis of emphysema and rule out other lung conditions.
Arterial Blood Gases Analysis These blood tests measure how well your lungs transfer oxygen to your bloodstream and remove carbon dioxide.
Sputum Examination Analysis of cells in your sputum can help determine the cause of some lung problems.
Complications of Emphysema
People who have emphysema are also more likely to develop:
Collapsed lung (pneumothorax). A collapsed lung can be life-threatening in people who have severe emphysema, because the function of their lungs is already so compromised. This is uncommon but serious when it occurs.
Heart problems. Emphysema can increase the pressure in the arteries that connect the heart and lungs. This can cause a condition called cor pulmonale, in which a section of the heart expands and weakens.
Large holes in the lungs (bullae). Some people with emphysema develop empty spaces in the lungs called bullae. They can be as large as half the lung. In addition to reducing the amount of space available for the lung to expand, giant bullae can increase your risk of pneumothorax.
Emphysema and COVID-19
The Emphysema Foundation of America have expressed concern about how COVID-19 might affect people with emphysema.
They urge people with COPD to familiarize themselves with the symptoms of COVID-19. These can resemble the symptoms of COPD and emphysema. A person should contact their doctor if they have any unusual symptoms or a high fever.
They recommend taking full precautions to avoid exposure to the virus, including:
frequently washing the hands and encouraging others to do the same
avoiding people who may have had contact with the virus
frequently wiping surfaces
wearing a face covering such as a mask in public places
avoiding crowded gatherings
They also advise:
maintaining at least a 30-day supply of medication
keeping a stock of household necessities, including food and other basics
checking with local providers about plans to maintain oxygen supplies
making a plan in case of sickness
Prevention of Emphysema
Quit smoking — People who smoke are at a very high risk for developing emphysema. By quitting now (or never smoking in the first place), you can significantly reduce your risk for the disease. Also, you should avoid being around secondhand smoke because it can irritate your lungs.
Lower your exposure to irritants in the air — Limit your exposure to environments with lots of dust, silica, cotton and wood fibers, chemical fumes and air pollution. Wear proper safety equipment and follow safety procedures if you work in one of these kinds of environments to lower your risk for emphysema.
Get a lung screening — Visit a health care professional for a lung screening if you’re at risk for COPD. A lung screening can catch early signs of the disease so you can help take steps to prevent it from developing or treat it early on if it already has developed.
Homoeopathic Treatment for Emphysema
Homeopathy cannot reverse the damage already occurred in emphysema but it can help to slow down the further progression of the condition. Symptoms of shortness of breath and cough are managed with natural medicines in an excellent manner. Ammonium Carb, Antimonium Arsenicosum, Arsenic Album, Lobelia Inflata, Silicea and Ipecac are the top remedies for emphysema.
1. Ammonium Carb – Top Grade Medicine for Emphysema
Ammonium Carb is one of the best medicines for treating emphysema. Ammonium Carb is highly beneficial for emphysema cases where a person feels shortness of breath from moving even a few steps. Shortness of breath gets worse in a warm room. Open air relieves the shortness of breath. Cough may appear with difficult breathing and it tends to get worse at night. The chest feels heavy along with chronic weakness.
2. Antimonium Arsenicosum – For Excessive Dyspnoea and Cough
Antimonium Arsenicosum is next well-indicated medicine for emphysema. It works well in cases of emphysema with excessive dyspnea and cough. In cases needing Antimonium Arsenicosum, the difficulty in breathing is felt most on eating or lying down. Cough appears with a lot of mucus with shortness of breath. Weakness is felt with above symptoms Apart from emphysema Antimonium Arsenicosum is also indicated for other lung disorders including pneumonia, pleural effusion, and pleurisy.
3. Arsenic Album – When Intense Anxiety Appears with Shortness of Breath
Arsenic Album is a very helpful medicine for emphysema when intense anxiety appears with shortness of breath. Cold sweat may also appear on the face with this. Shortness of breath appears on walking, exertion and even on lying down. Breathing is easier by inclining chest forward. Cough and whistling in the chest may also accompany dyspnea. Expectoration may appear which is scanty, frothy and difficult.
4. Lobelia Inflata – Where Shortness of Breath arises from Slight Exertion
Lobelia Inflata is highly useful for emphysema where shortness of breath appears from slight exertion. Exposure to cold also worsens shortness of breath. Going up and down stairs also lead to shortness of breath. Constriction and sensation of fullness in the middle of the chest are present. The respiratory tract feels dry with above symptoms.
5. Silicea – For Shortness of Breath on Walking Fast
Silicea is considered in cases of emphysema where person experience shortness of breath on walking fast. Shortness of breath is also felt on stooping and lying on back. Cough and soreness in the chest also appears. Cough continues day and night. Profuse expectoration may arise with the cough. A foul smell may appear from the phlegm.
6. Carbo Veg – For Dyspnea, Cough and Profuse Expectoration
Carbo Veg is prominent medicine for emphysema with dyspnea, cough and profuse expectoration. Cough appears in violent spells. Lumps of mucus are expectorated on coughing. Expectoration may be greenish, yellow, brown or purulent and is tough, thick. Shortness of breath arises when walking. A fullness of chest attends.
7. Hepar Sulph – For Dyspnea, Cough, and Yellow, Fetid Expectoration
Hepar Sulph is wonderful medicine for emphysema with dyspnea, cough and yellowish fetid expectoration. The expectoration may be purulent, profuse and tenacious. The symptoms tend to get worse in cold air and get better by wrapping up warmly.
8. Phosphorus – For Emphysema with Bronchitis
Phosphorus offers help in cases of emphysema with attending bronchitis. There is difficult respiration attended with fullness and heaviness in the chest. Extreme prostration accompanies dyspnea. There appears cough with expectoration of yellow or greyish mucus, sometimes streaked with blood. It may have a sweet, sour or salty taste.
9. Ipecac – For Emphysema in Older Adults
Ipecac is prepared from the dried root of plant Cephaelis ipecacuanha of the natural order Rubiaceae. Ipecac is prominently indicated for treating emphysema in old people. There is extreme dyspnea with cough in cases needing Ipecac. Difficult breathing appears from slight exercise. Chest feels oppressed. Rattling and wheezing in chest is also felt. There appears excessive mucus in chest which is expectorated with difficulty.
10. Digitalis – For Emphysema with Heart Complaint
Digitalis is prepared from leaves of plant Digitalis purpurea commonly known by the name of foxglove of the natural order Scrophulariaceae. Digitalis can be used for supportive help along with conventional treatment in cases of emphysema with attending heart complaint. The person needing Digitalis have dyspnea with a constant desire to breath deeply. There is cough with yellow jelly-like mucus expectoration. The complaints get aggravated by walking and relieved while lying perfectly quiet.
Dr Dhanraj Bawan
M.D (HOM.) PART II - BATCH 2017-218
DEPTARTMENT OF ORGANON OF MEDICINE & HOMOEOPATHIC PHILOSOPHY
GOVT. HOMOEOPATHIC MEDICAL COLLEGE & HOSPITAL BHOPAL, M.P
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