wikiHow to Prevent Emphysema

Four Parts:Taking Steps to Prevent EmphysemaSeeking Medical HelpTaking Medicine to Treat EmphysemaGetting Treatment to Slow the Progression

Like chronic bronchitis and certain cases of asthma, emphysema falls under the umbrella of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).[1] Emphysema (and other forms of COPD) causes perpetual breathing problems, including shortness of breath and chronic coughing. As the disease progresses, your alveoli (the minuscule air sacs in your lungs) swell up and trap air inside, making it more difficult to breathe normally or engage in activities that require respiration.[2] To prevent emphysema, you will need to avoid or limit exposure to substances that damage the lung's air sacs. Though irreversible, there are ways you can slow the progress of emphysema and manage your symptoms for a more normal life.

Part 1
Taking Steps to Prevent Emphysema

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    Stop smoking. Tobacco smoke is a recognized cause of emphysema and other forms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), such as chronic bronchitis and asthma.[3] The best way to avoid emphysema is to never start smoking. If you're currently a smoker, quitting can help improve your health, even after years of smoking.[4]
    • Smoking is the cause of emphysema in 80% to 90% of all reported cases.[5]
    • When you quit smoking, your circulation begins to improve immediately. Your lungs will also be able to make some repairs to the damage smoking has caused.
    • Quit all at once. Smoking at all, even on occasion, will still do damage to your lungs.[6]
    • Write down the reasons why you want to quit and keep that piece of paper in a prominently-visible place. Remind yourself every day why it's worth it to quit.
    • Try nicotine-replacements like nicotine gum and patches to manage your cravings.
    • Join a stop-smoking program in your area. Let your friends and relatives know about your decision to quit and ask them for support.[7]
    • Call help hotlines for support any time you're struggling to stay away from tobacco. The Centers for Disease Control recommend that you call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for help and support.
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    Avoid secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke, which is smoke you inhale from another person's tobacco smoking, is a known environmental cause of emphysema.[8] Among non-smokers who develop emphysema and emphysema-like symptoms, an average of 20% of individuals grew up around other people who smoked.[9]
    • If you live with or spend time with someone who smokes, politely ask him not to smoke in front of you. Let your friends/family members know about your concerns over secondhand smoke.
    • Ask the smokers you know to smoke outdoors. If you carpool with smokers, ask them to avoid smoking in the car, or (if they refuse) make sure they keep the windows down and blow smoke outside.
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    Limit exposure to hazardous conditions. Around 10% to 20% of nonsmokers who develop emphysema are exposed to hazardous conditions in the workplace. You can reduce your chances of developing emphysema and other respiratory problems by limiting exposure to those conditions, or avoiding them altogether whenever possible.[10]
    • Industrial dust is a known cause emphysema. It can come from many materials, including wood, cotton, coal, asbestos, silica, talc, metal, fiberglass, pesticides, grain, coffee, and drug/enzyme powder.
    • Smoke from any burning organic material can cause emphysema. Firefighters often develop emphysema due to occupational exposure to smoke.
    • Gaseous vapors put out by solvents and other liquids can irritate the nose and throat, and can eventually cause emphysema.
    • Mist from paint, lacquer, hair spray, pesticides, cleaning products, oils, acids, and solvents can all cause emphysema.
    • Fumes from metal that has been heated and cooled quickly are a frequent cause of emphysema. If you work in welding, smelting, furnaces, pottery, plastics, or rubber manufacturing, take every precaution.
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    Take safety precautions in hazardous work environments. If you cannot avoid exposure to hazardous conditions in your workplace, you can take safety precautions to at least limit your exposure. Safety equipment like respirators and ventilation systems can help reduce how much of a given hazard your lungs are exposed to.[11]
    • Wear a respirator whenever you're exposed to hazardous conditions. Make sure it's fitted properly so it will work effectively on your face.
    • Let your supervisor know about your concerns regarding your workplace.
    • Urge your supervisor to increase ventilation in the workplace.
    • Ask about other ways you can limit or avoid exposure to the hazardous conditions.
    • If your supervisor does not take your concerns seriously, try speaking with a higher supervisor or union member (if you are part of a labor union).

Part 2
Seeking Medical Help

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    Identify the symptoms of emphysema. If you are or have been a smoker, if you have a family history of emphysema, or if you work in hazardous conditions, you may be at risk of developing emphysema. By knowing the symptoms, you can prepare yourself by understanding what to look for and when to be concerned.[12] Talk to your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms on a regular basis:
    • Wheezing and shortness of breath
    • Difficulty performing light exercise, such as climbing stairs
    • Long-term, hacking cough (often called "smoker's cough")
    • Long-term production of mucus (especially yellow/greenish mucus)[13]
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    Test your lung capacity at home. If you're concerned about your potential for having acquired emphysema, you may want to test your own lung capacity at home. While this is not a substitute for a proper medical examination, it can help give you some idea of how good or bad your lungs are.[14]
    • Take a full breath and hold it for one second.
    • Blow out the air as hard and as fast as you're able to.
    • Your lungs should be completely empty in under six seconds.
    • If it takes you longer than six seconds to completely empty your lungs, you may have some type of obstruction or limitation on your airways' capacity to breathe.
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    See your doctor as soon as you notice symptoms. If you notice any symptoms of emphysema and you've been having a hard time breathing, it's important to get checked out right away. While there is no cure for emphysema, getting treatment early on and making the necessary lifestyle changes can help slow the progression of emphysema and may improve your quality of life.[15]
    • Your doctor will run tests to determine if emphysema is the cause of your symptoms.
    • X-rays, pulse oximetry, arterial blood gas tests, electrocardiograms, spirometry, and pulmonary function tests are all common ways your doctor might diagnose or rule out emphysema.
    • No at-home diagnosis can substitute for a doctor's evaluation. Talk to your doctor right away about any concerns you have regarding your risk of emphysema.

Part 3
Taking Medicine to Treat Emphysema

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    Use bronchodilator medications. Bronchodilators are usually administered as a hand-held inhaler. They relieve the symptoms of emphysema by relaxing the muscles in and around your airways, allowing the airways to open more fully so that breathing comes easier.[16] There are two main types of bronchodilators: short-acting and long-acting medications. Both forms can cause trembling, headaches, dry mouth, heart palpitations, muscle cramps, coughing, nausea/vomiting, and diarrhea.[17] The most common bronchodilators include:
    • Beta-2 agonists — these medications are usually taken through an inhaler. Common beta-2 agonists include salbutamol, salmeterol, formoterol, and vilanterol.
    • Anticholinergics/antimuscarinics — these medications are administered via inhaler. Common medicines in this class include ipratropium, tiotropium, aclidinium and glycopyrronium.
    • Theophylline — this class of medicine is usually taken orally as a tablet or capsule, though intravenous versions are available for severe emergencies.
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    Take anti-inflammatory medications. Anti-inflammatory medications reduce swelling/inflammation in your airways. These medicines can be administered as an inhaled steroid, an oral steroid, or an inhaled non-steroid.[18] However, prolonged use of anti-inflammatory medications over time may cause osteoporosis, hypertension, elevated blood sugar, and redistribution of fat in the body.[19]
    • The most common inhaled steroids are Beclomethasone dipropionate (Beclovent, Vanceril), Fluticasone propionate (Flovent), Flunisolide (AeroBid), Budesonide (Pulmicort), Mometasone (Asmanex), and Ciclesonide (Alvesco).
    • Common side effects of inhaled steroids include coughing, sore throat, hoarseness, and mouth infections like thrush.
    • The most common oral steroids are Methylprednisolone (Medrol), Prednisolone (Prelone), Prednisone (Deltasone), Hydrocortisone (Cortef), and Dexamethasone.
    • Common side effects of oral steroids include an increase in appetite, mood swings, muscle weakness, skin blemishes, sweating or swelling, elevated blood pressure, osteoporosis, and an increased risk of infection.
    • The most common inhaled steroids are Cromolyn sodium (Intal) and Nedocromil sodium (Tilade).
    • Common side effects of inhaled steroids include coughing, dry throat, nausea, and mouth infections like thrush. They can also leave an unpleasant taste in your mouth.
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    Treat infections with antibiotics. Many people with emphysema develop bacterial infections such as acute bronchitis and pneumonia. If this happens, your doctor will prescribe you a course of antibiotics to help you fight the bacterial infection.[20]
    • Mild to moderate emphysema-related infections are typically treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics like doxycycline, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole and amoxicillin-clavulanate potassium.
    • Severe emphysema-related infections may be treated with penicillin, fluoroquinolones, third-generation cephalosporins, and aminoglycosides.[21]

Part 4
Getting Treatment to Slow the Progression

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    Participate in a pulmonary rehabilitation program. Pulmonary rehabilitation classes teach you techniques that you can employ at home to reduce your emphysema symptoms. These programs typically focus on breathing exercises and different breathing techniques that can make respiration easier.[22]
    • Ask your doctor about pulmonary rehabilitation programs in your area. Your doctor's office may even organize such programs, and if not, your doctor should be able to refer you to one.
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    Use oxygen therapy. Oxygen therapy involves receiving higher volumes of oxygen through a machine. The oxygen is usually administered through either a full face mask or a nasal tube.[23] This is the one of the few medical treatments that actual prolongs the lifespan in COPD patients; other treatments only reduce symptoms or make the patient more comfortable.
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    Try nutrition therapy. If you've recently been diagnosed with emphysema, your doctor may advise you to lose weight. Alternately, if you're in the late stages of emphysema, your doctor may recommend that you gain additional weight. Taking specialized courses in nutrition that are designed for individuals with emphysema can help you manage your weight, whether that means gaining or losing pounds.[24]
    • Ask your doctor for nutritional advice, and find out if there are any nutrition therapy programs in your area.
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    Ask your doctor about lung volume reduction surgery. As emphysema progresses, parts of your lungs may become damaged beyond repair. These damaged areas can make it more difficult to breathe, and they may restrict your lung capacity. When you opt for lung volume reduction surgery, a surgeon will carefully remove some of the damaged portions in very small wedges. This allows the rest of your lung tissue to expand, making breathing come easier and more efficiently.[25]
    • This surgery, as with oxygen therapy, can prolong the patient's life, not just treat symptoms.[26]
    • Not everyone is eligible for surgery. Ask your doctor if you meet the criteria.[27]
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    Find out if you qualify for a lung transplant. For very severe emphysema, your doctor may recommend a lung transplant if no other options have worked.[28] This is a very serious and potentially dangerous surgery in which your chest will be opened up and a donor's lung transplanted into your own body. There may be certain qualifications for this procedure, including having an advanced stage of emphysema. Talk to your doctor to find out more about this and other options for your emphysema.

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Categories: Respiratory Health