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Emphysema Cure: What Are the Ways To Treat Emphysema?

Emphysema Cure: What Are the Ways To Treat Emphysema?

Emphysema, one of the features of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is a progressive respiratory condition. It involves damaged alveoli, the air sacs in the lungs where gas exchange occurs. People with emphysema often experience shortness of breath, cough with phlegm, fatigue, and vulnerability to respiratory infections. To date, there’s still no emphysema cure, but there are treatments available to improve the symptoms, slow down the disease progression, and prevent complications.

Medications

A patient with emphysema may receive a couple of medicines, including:

  • Bronchodilators – These are medicines that widen constricted air passages, helping with coughing, shortness of breath, and other breathing problems. Patients often receive bronchodilators regularly to improve symptoms and prevent hospitalizations1.
  • Inhaled corticosteroids – These help with shortness of breath by relieving inflammation. These medicines are often used as an add-on therapy to bronchodilators for step-up therapy.
  • Antibiotics – The doctor may order antibiotic drugs for patients who developed bacterial infections, like pneumonia and bronchitis.

Also, a recently approved treatment called triple inhaled therapy may be prescribed once a day. Triple inhaled therapy is a combination of two types of bronchodilators and inhaled corticosteroids.

Finally, the doctor may also give other medicines depending on the patient’s current health status. For instance, inflammation not relieved by inhaled corticosteroids may require another medicine called oral phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors. Patients who have alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, an inherited condition that causes COPD, may receive intravenous alpha1 antitrypsin augmentation therapy.

Vaccines

There might be no emphysema cure yet, but getting the annual flu shot and the pneumococcal vaccine is extremely helpful in preventing infections.

You see, having influenza or pneumonia can worsen the symptoms and even lead to hospitalization.

Supportive Therapy

Besides receiving medicines and vaccines, emphysema patients may also need supportive therapy, which may include:

Oxygen Therapy

Reports say routine oxygen therapy does not improve the patient’s quality of life and clinical symptoms if their condition is stable. However, patients who have low blood oxygen levels (hypoxemia) may benefit from continuous long-term administration (longer than 15 hours daily)1.

Pulmonary Rehabilitation

Pulmonary rehabilitation is not an emphysema cure, but it is a critical part of treatment2.

Generally, it involves patient education about their condition, nutritional counseling to help them have a healthy, balanced diet, and the formulation of exercise routines that help improve their quality of life.

In the rehabilitation program, the patient also learns about breathing techniques that alleviate shortness of breath and strategies in smoking cessation should they have trouble quitting.

Surgery

Depending on how advanced the emphysema is, the doctor may recommend one or more types of lung surgery:

  • Lung volume reduction surgery – It involves removing damaged lung tissues, allowing the healthy tissues to expand and function more effectively. The doctor may recommend this surgery for patients with bullous emphysema who developed breathing difficulties.
  • Lung transplant – If the patient has severe lung damage and the above treatment failed, the doctor may recommend lung transplant surgery.

Lifestyle Changes

On top of the medicines, supportive therapy, or surgery, the doctor will most definitely recommend some lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes are not emphysema cure, but they help slow down the disease progression and prevent complications.

Some of the most important lifestyle changes are:

  • Smoking cessation and avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Avoiding exposure to lung irritants, such as chemicals from paint and automobiles.
  • Be proactive in preventing infections. Besides vaccination, don’t forget that respiratory hygiene is also crucial.
  • Achieving and maintaining a healthy and balanced diet together with appropriate regular physical activity.

Key Takeaways

Currently, there is still no emphysema cure, but treatments can improve the symptoms, prevent complications, and slow down the disease progression.

Treatments include lifestyle modifications, medicines, and supportive therapy, like oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation. The doctor may also recommend surgery in cases when there is severe lung damage and other treatment modalities failed.

Learn more about Emphysema here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Oct 15
Fact Checked by Cesar Beltran