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What is emphysema?

A destructive lung disease that is characterized by deterioration of the alveoli that helps in promoting the exchange of oxygen between the air and the bloodstream is called emphysema.

Emphysema is a progressive disease of the lung.

It is a long-standing disease which results when the alveolar walls are destroyed with the capillary blood vessels within them.

What are the types of emphysema?

• Centriacinar: 

In this type of emphysema, the upper part of the lung is affected.

The damage occurs around the bronchioles.

• Panacinar: 

In this type of emphysema, the lower half of the lung is affected.

The classification of emphysema depends upon the lung destruction:

• Centrilobular emphysema-

This type of emphysema most predominantly affects the bronchioles of the respiratory system especially in the central portion of acini and hence involves the middle portion of the secondary lobules.

• Panlobular emphysema-

This type of emphysema involves all the parts or components of the acinus but not in uniform style and hence it involves entire secondary lobules.

This type is usually associated with deficiency of a very important enzyme protein called an alpha-1-protease inhibitor.

• Paraseptal emphysema-

This type of emphysema involves the ducts of alveoli and sacs in the lung’s periphery, and with the parts of destruction often possess a margin of interlobular septa.

What are the causes of emphysema?

• History of the patient.

• Family history of the patient.

• Smoking.

• Occupational exposure to fumes or dust.

• Aging.

• Intravenous drug abuse.

• Exposure to indoor and outdoor pollution.

• Infections like Pneumocystis carinii can cause inflammatory changes in the lung.

• In rare cases, emphysema is caused by an inherited deficiency of a protein, called Alpha-1 antitrypsin that protects the elastic structures in the lungs.

What are the sign and symptoms of emphysema?

• Shortness of breath.

• Wheezing.

• Initially, the shortness of breath occurs with activity but with time shortness of breath occurs even while at rest.

What is the differential diagnosis of emphysema?

• Bronchitis

• Bronchiectasis

• Chronic Bronchitis

How to investigate emphysema?

• Chest X-ray

• Computerized tomography (CT scan)

• Complete blood count

• Pulmonary function tests

How to treat emphysema?

• Drugs for smoking cessation.

• Bronchodilators.

• Corticosteroid drugs inhaled as aerosol sprays

• Antibiotics.


Depending on the severity of emphysema, one of the following surgical procedures may be adopted, including:

• Lung volume reduction.

• Lung transplantation.

Pulmonary rehabilitation:

The patient is educated about:

• Proper breathing techniques.

• Clearance of secretions.

• Understanding medicines and devices.


• Antioxidants are beneficial for lungs e.g. fresh fruits and vegetables.

• Avoid caffeine-containing beverages.

• Avoid alcohol and smoking.

• Drink adequate water to maintain moisture in the air passage.

• Apple is very beneficial in restoring lung function.

What is the prognosis of emphysema?

• Emphysema affects the quality of life.

• The aim of treatment is to prevent further damage to the lung and to maximize the function of healthy lung tissue.

• It is a long-term illness.

• Medicines improve their quality of life. But the condition gets worse if the patient doesn’t stop smoking.

What are the complications of emphysema?

• Need for breathing machine and oxygen therapy

• Irregular heartbeat

• Pneumonia

• Thinning of the bones (osteoporosis)

• Pneumothorax

• Severe weight loss and malnutrition

What are the indicated homeopathic medicines for emphysema?

Some of the homeopathic medicines which can help in case of emphysema. These are:

• Antimonium tartaricum

• Arsenicum album

• Belladonna

• Ipecacuanha

• Lobelia inflata 

For more information, you can visit MedlinePlus and MayoClinic.


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