Emphysema gradually damages the air sacs (alveoli) in your lungs, making you progressively more short of breath. Emphysema is one of several diseases known collectively as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Smoking is the leading cause of emphysema. Your lungs' alveoli are clustered like bunches of grapes. In emphysema, the inner walls of the air sacs weaken and eventually rupture ? creating one larger air space instead of many small ones. This reduces the surface area of the lungs and, in turn, the amount of oxygen that reaches your bloodstream. When you exhale, the damaged alveoli don't work properly and old air becomes trapped, leaving no room for fresh, oxygen-rich air to enter.
Treatment may slow the progression of emphysema, but it can't reverse the damage. Treatment Depending upon the severity of your symptoms, your doctor might suggest: Bronchodilators. These drugs can help relieve coughing, shortness of breath and breathing problems by relaxing constricted airways, but they're not as effective in treating emphysema as they are in treating asthma or chronic bronchitis. Inhaled steroids. Corticosteroid drugs inhaled as aerosol sprays may help relieve shortness of breath. Prolonged use may weaken your bones and increase your risk of high blood pressure, cataracts and diabetes. Antibiotics. If you develop a bacterial infection, like acute bronchitis or pneumonia, antibiotics are appropriate.
Statistics An emphysema prognosis is impossible to determine in any individual person. Although emphysema staging can help identify the severity of emphysema, it can't predict the future. There have been no large studies to determine emphysema's effect on life expectancy. The largest and best studies have only included a few hundred people. Emphysema staging is helpful, but emphysema still varies widely between two people at the same stage. Major research There have been no large studies to determine emphysema's effect on life expectancy. The largest and best studies have only included a few hundred people. Emphysema staging is helpful, but emphysema still varies widely between two people at the same stage.