What is emphysema?
What are the symptoms of emphysema?
The main symptoms of emphysema are:
- A cough that will not go away.
- Mucus that comes up when you cough.
- Shortness of breath that gets worse when you exercise.
At times, your symptoms may suddenly flare up and get much worse. This is a called an exacerbation (say “egg-ZASS-er-BAY-shun”). When this happens, your usual symptoms quickly get worse and stay bad. This can be dangerous. You may have to go to the hospital.
How is emphysema treated?
Emphysema is treated with medicines and oxygen. You also can take steps at home to stay healthy and keep your condition from getting worse.
Medicines and oxygen therapy:
- You may be taking medicines such as:
- Bronchodilators. These help open your airways and make breathing easier. Bronchodilators are either short-acting (work for 6 to 9 hours) or long-acting (work for 24 hours). You inhale most bronchodilators, so they start to act quickly. Always carry your quick-relief inhaler with you in case you need it while you are away from home.
- Corticosteroids. These reduce airway inflammation. They come in pill or inhaled form. You must take these medicines every day for them to work well.
- Antibiotics. These medicines are used when you have a bacterial lung infection.
- Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
- Oxygen therapy boosts the amount of oxygen in your blood and helps you breathe easier. Use the flow rate your doctor has recommended, and do not change it without talking to your doctor first.
Other care at home:
- If your doctor recommends it, get more exercise. Walking is a good choice. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk every day. Try for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
- Learn breathing methods—such as breathing through pursed lips—to help you become less short of breath.
- If your doctor has not set you up with a pulmonary rehabilitation program, talk to him or her about whether rehab is right for you. Rehab includes exercise programs, education about your disease and how to manage it, help with diet and other changes, and emotional support.
- Eat regular, healthy meals. Use bronchodilators about 1 hour before you eat to make it easier to eat. Eat several small meals instead of three large ones. Drink beverages at the end of the meal. Avoid foods that are hard to chew.