Emphysema is a lung condition that occurs when the lung’s air sacs (alveoli) are damaged. Air sacs are where gas exchange occurs. When air sacs are damaged, bloodstream may carry in less oxygen, compromising the body’s oxygen supply. According to Healthline, approximately 4 million people were diagnosed with emphysema in 2008.
Smokers are most prone to emphysema. But they are not the only ones that could develop this disease. People who are constantly exposed to second hand smoke and are living in areas with poor air quality may also develop emphysema. Unfortunately, some car manufactures couldn’t care less about the air we breathe. Volkswagen deliberately installed software in its newer line of diesel cars to circumvent federal emissions tests.
Signs and symptoms of emphysema may include the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Unintended weight loss
- Fast and irregular heartbeat
- Cyanosis, or the discoloration of the lips and the fingernails due to lack of oxygen
In diagnosing emphysema, doctors would have to check first your symptoms and review your medical history. After that, they may recommend some tests to detect emphysema. Imaging tests, such as chest X-rays and computerized tomography (CT) scan, can be helpful in diagnosing emphysema. Blood test may also be helpful in determining the volume of oxygen in your bloodstream. Finally, a lung function test can measure how much air you can breathe in and out, which assesses how well your lungs function.
Although emphysema is a chronic condition, it is not a life sentence. When diagnosed with this condition, there are still many ways on how you can live a normal and productive life. You can do this by avoiding respiratory irritants, such as tobacco and car exhaust, exercising regularly, eating healthy, and keeping away from diseases that may cause lung infections. You may also consider seeking help from different emphysema groups near you for coping and support.