Get Treatment For Emphysema

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Why Choose Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital for Emphysema Treatment?

With over 50 years of experience in providing the community of Los Angeles with quality healthcare, our hospital has the necessary resources to treat patients with emphysema. We have state-of-the-art medical technology by which our talented medical professionals can perform a wide range of procedures. If you choose Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital to treat emphysema, you will receive the healthcare you need from our expert pulmonologists in a warm and compassionate environment, as we place great emphasis on the comfort and well-being of our patients.

Emphysema is part of a class of lung conditions known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It occurs when the air sacs of the lungs, medically known as alveoli, are collapsed, destroyed, narrowed, overinflated, or stretched. This results in the patient experiencing difficulty breathing and shortness of breath.

The overinflation of the alveoli is the consequence of a breakdown of their walls, which weaken and rupture, forming larger air spaces instead of many small ones. Unfortunately, the damage of the alveoli cannot be reversed, and people with emphysema will receive treatment that will help alleviate their symptoms, as there is no cure for this condition.

Throughout the United States, there are currently 3.5 million people who struggle with emphysema, most of them over the age of 45. It is worthy of note that many people with emphysema also suffer from chronic bronchitis, another lung disease from the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease category. This results in the inflammation of the tubes that carry air to your lungs, medically known as the bronchial tubes, generating a persistent cough.

Approximately 9 million people in the US suffer from chronic bronchitis at the moment. The damage caused by emphysema to your lungs makes it difficult for the organs to carry oxygen in and carbon dioxide out. Typically, the alveoli are elastic and stretchy, and when you breathe out, they deflate, and the air goes out. However, when they are damaged by emphysema, the walls between the alveoli are severely harmed, causing them to lose shape and become floppy.

Since emphysema is irreversible, the purpose of treatment is to help you live more comfortably with the disease, control the symptoms, and prevent further damage to your alveoli. There are numerous treatment approaches for emphysema, the most effective being the following:

  • a pulmonary rehab program: these programs help manage your disease, teach you breathing methods and exercise that will alleviate your symptoms, as well as provide support and counseling
  • antibiotics: if you have a bacterial infection that is worsening your symptoms, your doctor will prescribe you antibiotics to cure the infection
  • avoiding irritants: irritants such as tobacco smoke and heavy pollution should be avoided by people with emphysema, as they intensify their symptoms to a great extent
  • bronchodilators: this medication widens your airways so that you can breathe easier and come in the form of a pill or a spray
  • vaccines: getting flu and pneumococcal vaccines will help you prevent becoming ill, which could worsen your symptoms of emphysema
  • nutritional support: because people with emphysema may become malnourished and lose weight, they may need nutritional support, which will help patients maintain a healthy weight, as being underweight or overweight can worsen your emphysema symptoms
  • oxygen therapy: oxygen therapy may prove very useful for people with severe emphysema, as it will help them breathe easier by using oxygen from a portable tank
  • quitting smoking: it is crucial to quit smoking if you developed emphysema, as tobacco smoke irritates your airways to a tremendous extent, and smoking is the primary cause of emphysema
  • surgery: some people with severe emphysema may require surgery to have the damaged areas of their lungs removed, which will subsequently improve their symptoms
  • endobronchial valve system: this is a device designed for people with severe emphysema that helps them breathe easier, and it is the first minimally invasive device to treat emphysema available in the country
  • lung transplant: for people with severe emphysema, a lung transplant may be necessary since their lungs are damaged beyond repair, and they can no longer breathe properly

Depending on the exact part of the lungs it damages, there are three types of emphysema:

  • centriacinar: it damages the alveoli and airways in the central acinus, which is the cluster of cells that resembles a raspberry located at the end of the alveoli. It also destroys the alveoli in the walls of the respiratory bronchioles and alveolar ducts
  • panacinar: it affects the entire acinus
  • paraseptal: it is believed to be the primary lesion of pulmonary bullous disease, which entails the formation of spaces filled with air within the lungs

Symptoms of Emphysema

The symptoms of emphysema vary from person to person, depending on the severity of the disease. However, the most common symptoms of emphysema are the following:

  • a chronic cough
  • rapid breathing
  • sputum production
  • wheezing
  • shortness of breath
  • chest tightness

Other symptoms people with emphysema may experience as a consequence of their disease include:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • fatigue 
  • heart problems
  • sleep problems
  • weight loss

Diagnosis of Emphysema

The diagnostic process for emphysema begins with your doctor asking you about the symptoms you experience and subsequently conducting a physical exam, during which they will listen to your lungs while you are breathing deeply. Afterward, if they suspect emphysema or another lung disease, they will order some of the following tests, some of which are known as pulmonary function tests:

  • spirometry: this is one of the simplest and most common tests for emphysema, and it is used to determine the severity of your emphysema, to find out whether your lung disease is restrictive or obstructive, to identify lung disease, and to check your overall lung function
  • peak flow monitoring: this test involves using a device to measure how fast you can blow air out of your lungs, as coughing, inflammation, and mucus buildup may cause the large airways of the lungs to narrow, which will slow the speed of airflow in people with emphysema
  • blood tests: blood tests may be necessary to determine the levels of carbon dioxide and oxygen in your blood, the levels of eosinophil and vitamin D, as well as the levels of hematocrit and hemoglobin
  • chest X-rays: this test, which uses radiation, will provide your doctor with clear images of your lungs, which will help them determine if your lungs are affected by emphysema and how severe your disease is
  • CT scan: this test uses a blend of X-rays and computer technology to offer your physician clear and detailed images of your lungs, which will allow them to see how severely damaged your lungs are 
  • sputum culture: the mucus you cough up will be collected and examined for the presence of infection, as well as to measure the eosinophil levels, and it usually takes two days to receive the results
  • electrocardiogram: this test evaluates the electrical activity of your heart and will allow your doctor to see whether you have arrhythmia or heart muscle damage caused by emphysema

There are numerous causes for emphysema, the most common being the following:

  • tobacco smoking: because it is highly irritating to the lungs, tobacco smoke can trigger the onset of emphysema over the years and, alarmingly, up to 50% of smokers will develop a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases during their lifetime
  • marijuana smoking: similarly to tobacco smoking, marijuana smoke is also very irritating to the lungs and can lead to the development of emphysema
  • exposure to air pollution: if you reside in a location with heavy air pollution, your chances of coming to struggle with emphysema are greater
  • exposure to indoor pollution: this includes exposure to irritating fumes, burning wood, smoke from home cooking, heating fuels, chemical fumes, environmental dust, and secondhand tobacco smoke
  • a rare inherited form of the disease alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency: if you have this disease, you are very likely to develop emphysema at one point during your lifetime

Together with the treatment prescribed by your doctor, which you must always take as directed, you may want to test some natural remedies for emphysema, which may improve your symptoms and allow you to breathe with more ease:

  • improving the air quality in your house: you can do this by having air filtration systems disinfected regularly to prevent the growth of harmful mold and mildew, opening windows to increase airflow, vacuuming and decluttering to prevent dust from building up, and washing bed linens every week to reduce dust mites
  • breathing exercises: by practicing breathing exercises such as pursed-lip breathing, diaphragm breathing, and pranayama, the muscles that control breathing will get stronger, which will allow you to breathe easier, as well as to exercise with less shortness of breath
  • managing your stress levels: since emphysema can cause sudden symptoms known as exacerbations, managing your stress levels is always a good idea, and you can do this by practicing mindful meditation, as this practice was found to improve the respiratory rate in people with a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • vitamin D: because vitamin D deficiency may increase the inflammation of the airways and reduce the ability of the body to eliminate bacteria, taking vitamin D supplements can be very useful if you struggle with emphysema
  • co-enzyme Q10 and creatine: these are natural chemicals that are involved in supplying energy to the cells of the body, and a 2013 study found that people who took both experienced improved exercise tolerance, less shortness of breath, and improved quality of life
  • eucalyptus oil: it contains a natural compound known as eucalyptol, with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which opens up the airways, reduces mucus production, helps clear mucus from the lungs, and prevents exacerbations in people with moderate emphysema

The best way to avert emphysema, a preventable disease in 90% of cases, is not to take up smoking or quit smoking if you are already a smoker since this is the primary cause of this lung disease. Furthermore, you should avoid air pollutants and indoor pollution, which may also trigger the onset of emphysema.

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