When you feel like you cannot breathe, it can be a scary experience. This is a common feeling for those with emphysema, a lung condition that affects the air sacs of the lungs, reducing the ability to deliver oxygen to the bloodstream. This can be combined with bronchitis and a part of COPD, a respiratory condition that is irreversible, but can be managed with treatment. Knowing the symptoms and causes of emphysema is important to ensure you or family members get the treatment you need for this serious respiratory issue.
Symptoms of Emphysema
Emphysema does not occur overnight. The illness can be present and worsen over many years before a patient pursues treatment. Symptoms may be slight or inconsistent in the earlier stages, which is why many people do not seek treatment. Some symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath during walking or climbing stairs
- Feeling less mentally alert
- Fingernails turn blue or gray with physical exercise or exertion
Emphysema is most common in those over forty, so many times the symptoms are ignored as just a part of aging or lack of fitness. However, it is more serious and needs medical attention to ensure the body is receiving the oxygen it needs.
Main Causes of Emphysema
In most cases, emphysema is caused by environmental or lifestyle factors. Although there are rare instances when emphysema can be caused by a congenital defect, this is usually not the case. Exposure to smoke and other harmful air borne pollutants is usually the cause. These include:
- Smoking tobacco products
- Smoking marijuana
- Breathing in chemicals or dust
- Breathing in excessive pollution
These causes are usually over a prolonged period. The smoke from tobacco or marijuana can cause damage to the air sacs in the lungs, slowly destroying them over many years of these habits. Even second-hand smoke can cause lung damage and lead to emphysema. The same is true of breathing in chemicals or dust on the job or living in a highly polluted area.
Emphysema can make it difficult to breathe, exercise and enjoy normal activities. It can also lead to other serious health problems, including collapsed lungs, holes in the lungs and cardiovascular problems. Those with symptoms of emphysema should seek treatment and avoid smoking or exposure to air borne irritants that can worsen their respiratory condition.
If you are concerned that you may have emphysema, come see our experienced team at Internal Medicine Diagnostic Center in Magnolia. We can perform diagnostic testing to determine if you have emphysema and explore the treatment options available to improve your health and quality of life.