Emphysema, also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is a chronic illness of the lungs. Dyspnea, or shortness of breath, is a principle indicator of the disease of emphysema. In the beginning of the illness, this shortness of breath occurs during physical activity.
Later, as the disease progresses, episodes of dyspnea can even occur when the individual is at rest. This shortness of breath occurs because emphysema involves damage to the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs, making oxygenation of the body more difficult and taxing.
Coughing persistently is another sign of emphysema. Smoker’s cough is a hacking, productive cough characteristic of emphysema. Emphysema, after all, is primarily caused by smoking. Smoking cessation is the most important start to treatment for emphysema. While the condition cannot be reversed, quitting smoking can greatly slow the progression of the illness.
Bronchodilators are inhaled steroids that can reduce inflammation and open the airways, allowing for easier breathing. Also, the reduction of inflammation can reduce coughing and mucus production, reducing risk of respiratory infection.
Other treatments include corticosteroids (oral steroids) which may be administered during symptom flare-ups, or in severe cases, as a daily treatment. Antibiotics are often prescribed during respiratory infections caused by the mucus production in the lungs. Pneumonia is a common complication of emphysema. Finally, as the disease progresses, patients may require oxygen therapy every night or even constantly, to maintain proper oxygen levels.