Emphysema is a lung disease that is often caused by smoking tobacco products. As emphysema progresses, it is harder for an emphysema patient to breathe. The first order of emphysema treatment is to quit smoking. Other forms of emphysema treatment are designed to treat the symptoms of the disease and to help treat infections like bacterial pneumonia or prevent viral infections that can affect the lungs such as influenza.
Smoking is not the only cause of emphysema. People who are exposed to second-hand smoke can also develop the disease. In addition, age, exposure to air pollution, exposure to on-the-job dusts, and exposure to fumes from chemicals can increase the odds of developing emphysema. Smokers who test positive for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are more likely to develop emphysema than people who are HIV positive and do not smoke.
The symptoms of emphysema can get progressively worse the longer the person is exposed to the problem that is causing the disease. In other words, a person who continues to smoke after showing signs of developing emphysema will find it harder to breathe the longer that he smokes. Early signs of emphysema include coughing, shortness of breath during "normal" activities and tiredness. People who suspect that they may be developing emphysema should consult with their doctors for early diagnosis.
According to the American Lung Association, smoking is responsible for about 80 to 90 percent of all emphysema deaths. As part of a smoker's emphysema treatment, a physician will help devise a plan to quit smoking as well as a plan to prevent an emphysema patient from relapsing and starting to smoke again. A doctor may prescribe medications such as nicotine gum or patches to help the patient wean away from smoking. Or a doctor may prescribe drugs like bupropion, which help reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms. In addition, the physician may suggest support groups for people who are trying to quit smoking.
Additional forms of emphysema treatment are designed to help an emphysema patient feel better while slowing down the disease's progression as much as possible. These treatments may include using supplemental oxygen or inhaling steroids. A doctor may also suggest doing breathing exercises several times a day. In some cases, a physician may recommend surgery to remove parts of the lung or replace the lung completely.