Emphysema is a lung disease that is usually caused by smoking. This condition is considered part of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Emphasyma causes wheezing and shortness of breath. How long can a person live with emphysema?
There is no standard answer for how long a person can live with emphysema. Though lung disease is a serious concern, many people live for decades with lung disease. How long a person lives with emphysema can depend on the severity of the condition and other health and lifestyle factors such as continuing to smoke and receiving proper medical treatment. Though there is no cure for emphysema, treatment for emphysema may reduce the symptoms, prolong the person’s life, and make breathing easier and more effective.
Common treatments for emphysema include oxygen and medication. The prescribed medication may include an inhaler containing bronchodilators like those used for asthma. These bronchodilators may be used in combination with an inhaled corticosteroid. Some treatment methods for emphysema are focused on patient education to improve breathing.
The physician may recommend surgery in some cases. A type of surgery called lung volume reduction surgery helps some patients with emphysema. Many patients are not good candidates for this invasive surgery. However, for some patients, lung volume reduction surgery can reduce the symptoms of emphysema. Other surgical emphysema treatments that are being used and tested include the implantation of valves or stints in the airways to reduce lung volume or open airways.
Emphysema symptoms include shortness of breath, a barrel-shaped chest, fatigue, wheezing, and losing weight without trying. The shortness of breath may only occur during physical activity at first but may develop into a persistent shortness of breath as the condition worsens. Emphysema can lead to complications including chest infections, pneumonia, enlarged heart, and high blood pressure. Eventually, the patient usually dies from emphysema or emphysema complications.
Diagnosing emphysema may include listening to the person’s chest, blood tests, chest x-rays, and a physical exam. The doctor may have the person perform a spirometry test that measures how much air the person can exhale. Other lung function tests may be used to diagnose emphysema.
In addition to a history of smoking, air pollution, second-hand smoke, advanced age, and an antitrypsin deficiency are risk factors for developing emphysema. Antitrypsin is an enzyme that protects the lungs from damage. A rare genetic condition can cause a person to have a deficiency of this protective substance.