Emphysema is a progressive and chronic obstructive lung disease. It results in change in the structural appearance of the lung because the supportive tissues giving lung a shape are damaged. The function of the lung is also obstructed hampering exhalation in patients. This happens because the inflated and swollen alveoli do not exchange gases when a person breaths due to little or no movement of gases out of the alveoli.
1. My shortness of breath has been diagnosed as Emphysema. What has caused this condition?
There could be a variety of reasons why you may have developed Emphysema. Some of the causes are as:
• Cigarette smoking where the tobacco and nicotine smoke activates inflammatory response in the cells of the lungs causing swelling within the bronchioles, and activation of enzymes called proteases which attack and destroy lung tissue
• Deficiency of Alpha-1-antitrypsin may cause Emphysema. This substance destroys the harming trypsin that damage lung tissue and structure. People with alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency cannot fight the destructive effects of trypsin once it is released in the lung. The lung tissue is slowly destroyed, thus decreasing the functional ability of the lungs
• Old age also causes emphysema whereby the lungs have deteriorated due to age.
• Exposure to air pollution, second-hand smoke or other chemicals and toxins can cause emphysema.
• Intravenous drug using additives such as corn starch can be toxic to lung tissue.
• Immune deficiencies in which infections like Pneumocystis carinii can cause inflammatory changes in the lung
• Connective tissue illnesses (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Marfan syndrome) where abnormal elastic tissue in the body can cause alveoli to fail can also cause Emphysema conditions.
2. Apart from shortness of breath, am I likely to experience any other symptoms?
You could experience any or a combination of any of the following symptoms:
• Shortness of breath
• Cough with or without mucus
• Reduced ability to exert
• Pursed lip-breathing
• Development of barrel chest shape
• Cyanosis – bluish skin
• Loss of weight
3. Am I a risk group for emphysema?