Emphysema and COPD – Effects of a Smoking Addiction

Any discussion of the facts on emphysema must include the main statement that emphysema belongs to the COPD (Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease) group of respiratory conditions.COPD disorders cause obstruction to the airways and make it difficult to properly exhale all the carbon dioxide in the lungs. Smoking is a main contributor and cause of COPD and emphysema in particular.

Other illnesses in the COPD group of respiratory problems are asthma and chronic bronchitis.  These three conditions are seldom present in isolation of each other and therefore when one is present the other two are likely to be present as well. This is why they are grouped together and called Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD.

Emphysema causes damage to the air sacs in the lungs. The natural air sacs in the lungs are called alveoli. As emphysema sets in these sacs become larger and fewer in number. The tissue around them loses its elasticity so the sacs cannot expand and retract normally. This causes a decrease in the amount of oxygen and an increase in the levels of carbon dioxide in your blood.

Symptoms of emphysema are a chronic cough, a grayish-blue cast to the skin (from a lack of oxygen), fatigue, dizziness, finding it hard to catch your breath, and having difficulty breathing during any type of physical exercise. Often there is great discomfort when you eat (because it is  hard to breathe with a full stomach), so gradually there is loss of appetite, weight loss  and lack of energy.  Unfortunately, because this condition progresses so slowly, by the time symptoms appear  emphysema is usually already in an advanced stage.

The facts on emphysema include some very startling statistics. Because emphysema is primarily caused by smoking, it usually occurs in older adults. Men are 64% more likely to contract it than women. However, as the female population that took up smoking the seventies and eighties are aging, emphysema is now becoming more prevalent in women as well. The one cause of emphysema that is not related to smoking or chronic asthma is occupational exposures. Workers who regularly come in contact with toxic fumes from chemicals (especially in the mining process) are at  risk.

If you do not yet have emphysema, quitting smoking or avoiding second-hand smoke will most likely prevent you from developing it in the future. If you already have this disorder the effects of smoking have already started to take a toll. However, stopping your smoking addiction now will hopefully keep it from getting worse.

The startling facts on emphysema is that there is no cure, but the symptoms can be treated and lessened to a degree. Treatment for emphysema is based on the severity of symptoms. Some of the treatment options most commonly used are inhalers, medications (antibiotics, bronchodilators, and corticosteroids), oxygen therapy, and sometimes even lung surgery.

Complications such as lung infections and heart problems are two of the most significant facts on emphysema. As  the condition progresses heart problems will follow.  Low oxygen levels stimulate the heart to pump more blood and it becomes overworked eventually developing what is called congestive heart failure. Frequent infections result from the inability of the lungs to effectively remove accumulated mucus.  Pneumonia and heart failure are a frequent cause of death in people with emphysema and COPD.

The facts on emphysema are very clear. It is a chronic disabling condition.  It leads to comorbid conditions such as lung infections and heart failure and it caused by a smoking addiction.

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