Emphysema: Risk Factors & Treatment

The National Emphysema Foundation has found that an estimated 3.1 million Americans have been diagnosed with emphysema and 11.2 million have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Emphysema is one of the diseases which comprises COPD and is characterized by shortness of breath due to damaged and enlarged air sacs. Ravikanth Vydyula, M.D, a pulmonary specialist in Tampa, specializes in the treatment of lung-related conditions, such as emphysema, asthma, sleep apnea, and interstitial lung disease. This article will cover the risk factors for emphysema and emphysema treatment in Tampa

Related: How to Manage Your COPD

Risk Factors

The main cause of emphysema is long-term exposure to airborne irritants, such as air pollution, chemical fumes, dust, and tobacco smoke. Some factors that significantly increase your risk for developing emphysema include:

  • Smoke: Both smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke increase your risk for emphysema.
  • Exposure to fumes: Inhalation of fumes from a number of sources will exacerbate your risk for developing emphysema, including those produced by heating fuel, outdoor pollutants, certain chemicals, wood or mining products. 
  • Age: Most people who develop tobacco-related emphysema begin to experience symptoms between the ages of 40 and 60 as lung damage gradually occurs. 
  • Alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency: Individuals with this genetic disorder are at higher risk for emphysema because they lack a certain protein typically produced by the liver that protects the lungs from inflammation caused by inhaled irritants. 
  • Reactive airway disease (RAD): Individuals with reactive airway disease, asthma, or allergies may be predisposed to develop inflammation and tissue damage to the lungs. 

Symptoms

Emphysema is challenging to diagnose; you can have the condition for years without noticing any signs or symptoms. A chronic cough or shortness of breath during physical exertion are two common symptoms which appear in the early stages. Other symptoms which may occur later on include:

  • Lung infections
  • Sleep problems
  • Reduced appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Wheezing
  • Anxiety 

Treatment

It’s important to see a doctor regarding emphysema treatment in Tampa if your condition has continued to decline or interferes with daily activities. If you’re not certain that what you’re experiencing is emphysema, a pulmonary specialist in Tampa can diagnose the cause of unexplained shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. Depending on the type of respiratory problem you are experiencing, a pulmonologist will perform one of the following diagnostic procedures: 

  • Chest X-Ray
  • Spirometry
  • Bronchoscopy

Once your condition has been accurately assessed, the pulmonologist will then determine the best course of treatment. Ravikanth Vydyula, M.D., a pulmonary specialist in Tampa, provides both non-surgical and surgical treatment options for patients with emphysema. Treatment can range from prescribing bronchodilators and inhaled steroids to performing lung volume reduction surgery and lung transplants. 

To schedule a consultation with Ravikanth Vydyula, M.D., a pulmonary specialist in Tampa, please request an appointment today.

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