Emphysema Treatment

There is no cure for emphysema, but many treatments can relieve  the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. With treatment, people with emphysema can improve their quality of life.

The number one treatment for emphysema is to stop smoking. While that will not undo the damage, quitting is the best way to improve symptoms and prolong life. Assistance with the process can include over-the-counter or prescription medications, counseling and behavioral training.Emphysema

Two particular classes of drugs provide relief of emphysema symptoms. Inhaled steroids may help with shortness of breath. The negative side effects of corticosteroid drugs with prolonged use, however, include osteoporosis, high blood pressure, cataracts and diabetes.

Bronchodilators relax constricted airways, providing temporary relief from coughing and restricted airways. Those drugs are more effective treating asthma or chronic bronchitis symptoms, but can help to a lesser degree in emphysema treatment.

Because emphysema is often complicated by secondary lung infections, antibiotics can be used to treat acute bronchitis or pneumonia as part of the emphysema treatment plan.

Therapy will also likely be part of any emphysema treatment. Two types of therapy may be employed: pulmonary rehabilitation and oxygen therapy.

Breathing exercises and techniques may significantly improve shortness of breath and allow the patient to be more active. Pulmonary rehabilitation will usually also include nutrition advice. Depending on the stage of disease, patients may need to gain or lose weight as part of the treatment.

Supplemental oxygen helps improve blood oxygen levels in severe cases of emphysema. Delivered through tubing called a nasal cannula, oxygen therapy may be prescribed around the clock or just to assist with particular activities like exercising or sleeping.

Depending on the severity of the disease and the general health of the patient, surgery may be considered a treatment option for emphysema. One approach, lung volume reduction, improves lung efficiency and breathing by removing small pieces of damaged lung tissue. When all other options have failed, a lung transplant might  be considered. This, however, is a major surgery with serious risks. Patients also must meet defined criteria to qualify for a donor lung.