There are different types of emphysema, and there are also different types of lung diseases.

Emphysema is a chronic and progressive lung disease caused by exposure to substances that damage the lungs, most often cigarette smoke. Other causes include air pollution, fumes and dusts at the workplace, and rarely, an inherited form of emphysema related to alpha 1-antitrypsin (AA1) deficiency.

“The air sacs in the lungs are damaged by emphysema. The sacs may be narrowed or collapsed. The air sacs can’t be fixed once they are damaged.”

Knowing more about emphysema can help you understand it better.

Emphysema, also called pulmonary emphysema, is a progressive lung disease. It’s a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Its hallmarks are continued respiratory symptoms and impaired airflow. Symptoms can include cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, and sputum production.

There are three types of emphysema:

  • Centrilobular: most common type, associated with smoking and coal workers
  • Panacinar: usually associated with alpha1-antitrypsin deficiency
  • Paraseptal (distal acinar): can occur alone or with the other kinds; when it occurs alone, it’s often with a collapsed lung in a young adult

There are three main types of emphysema, and each one tends to be expressed in its own way:

  • Centriacinar/centrilobular: starts in the respiratory bronchioles, and mostly spreads in the upper half of the lungs
  • Panacinar: usually found in the lower half of the lungs, causing damage to air sac tissues
  • Paraseptal: often around the septa or pleura, associated with inflammation

Most people with emphysema have symptoms that are vague and nonspecific, like shortness of breath or cough (with or without sputum). As the disease progresses, these symptoms get worse, and wheezing occurs.

There may be a significant weight loss because of the inflammation and the fact that the person is working so hard to breathe.

Stages of the disease

In addition to the different types of emphysema, there are different stages of the disease (sometimes this is merely referred to as stages of COPD). This is called the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) system. It divides it up into four different stages:

  • Early stage I.
  • Stage 2. Moderate.
  • Stage III. It was severe.
  • Stage IV. Very severe.

Treatment depends on symptoms, stage and severity.

Emphysema is caused by exposure to gases and substances that irritate and damage the lungs. The exposure is chronic and considerable, over a period of time. Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of emphysema. Other causes include:

  • Exposure to air pollution can be chemical fumes.
  • Dust and fumes are very bad.
  • alpha1-antitrypsin deficiency (rare; this accounts for 1% to 2% of cases)

Risk factors can also include secondhand smoke, lung infections, allergies, and low birth weight.

A complete health history will be taken if you have symptoms of emphysema. Your doctor will ask you if you smoke and if you live near hazardous substances that can affect your breathing.

A healthcare professional may order some tests to help assess lung function and get a better idea of what’s going on with your lungs. These tests measure how your lungs exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. They may also order imaging tests to see your lung structure. Tests that help in the diagnosis of emphysema can include:

  • Blood tests to include blood gas.
  • The chest-ray is an X-ray.
  • A computed toms (CT) Scan is performed.
  • spirometry with accompanying diffusion testing and total lung capacity testing
  • peak flow monitoring
  • sputum culture.
  • electrocardiogram (ECG)

No single test can diagnose the disease and associated issues, so your healthcare professional will likely order a combination of tests.

There is no cure for emphysema. There are ways to manage symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. Quality of life can be improved by treatment and management.

Treatment options include:

  • Medical therapy can be used with anti- inflammatory medication or antibiotics.
  • Oxygen therapy and ventilatory support are supportive therapies.

Lifestyle changes can include:

  • The flu and pneumococcal vaccines are needed.
  • You need to keep your weight up.
  • Smoking cessation programs.
  • Smoke from others outside the home and work can be avoided.
  • The lungs are rehabilitated

If you have emphysema with other diseases, you should talk to your healthcare team about how to improve your health.

“COPD is a lung disease that is progressive and chronic. Other conditions can affect the disease course or progression. There are ways to treat and manage emphysema, which can slow the disease’s progression, ease symptoms, and improve quality of life.”