Emphysema


Emphysema is a COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. COPD is a condition when many complications occur in the lungs which include emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and chronic obstruction of airways. The biggest symptom is when one is not able to breathe properly. This inability to respire is also called as airflow obstruction; this may be due to smoking or toxic chemicals. COPD is one of the most common diseases in UK and usually is found in people above the age of 40. COPD is very common among men mainly due to the fact that more men smoke than women. A person suffering from COPD, his bronchioles have become narrow and the alveoli are damaged beyond repair. Gradually one will find breathing a difficult task to do and there is an increased risk of heart problems. Emphysema may result in loss of elasticity of the lung tissue, damage of the alveoli supports and damage to the capillaries that are connected to the alveoli


Symptoms

Smoking increases the risk of getting COPD by many folds. Some of the symptoms are coughing early in the morning, wheezing, uncontrolled coughing, difficulty in breathing, always feeling short of breath and infection of the chest and lungs.

People suffering from COPD will have their bronchioles that are very narrow and inflamed. Soon the alveoli will be completely damaged and it will be very difficult to breathe. The symptoms may be particularly bad during winter season

People affected by COPD often are worried about their health and they may feel depressed. Due to inadequate oxygen supply the heart and muscles will not function properly and it can make the person feel very tired. COPD will affect life in the work and personal front as well.

COPD will also affect the food intake as the person may feel breathless while eating and hence consume less food than usual. Weight loss can increase the risk of the failure of heart.

Causes

The main cause of COPD is smoking. More than 80% of the cases are due to smoking. The lung functions slowly start declining around 35 or 45 years in normal cases but for smokers the rate of decline may be three times more than the normal cases. It is important to know that COPD cannot be cured but its effects can be reduced by quitting smoking. Some of the uncommon causes for getting COPD are pollution, passive smoking, dust and fumes and problems from birth.

Diagnosis

Spirometry – this is a way to determine if the air ways to the lungs are narrowed or not.
Chest radiography – this is a kind of X-ray that will show any hyperinflation of the lungs.
CT scan – the computerised tomography is much more accurate than radiography and is used to scan the lungs
Blood test – one may have to get his blood tested to see if he is anaemic. The test may also be carried out to find if the person has polycythaemia (excessive red blood cells)