What is Pulmonary Emphysema? How Is It Diagnosed And Treated?

pulmonary emphysema

What Is Pulmonary Emphysema?

Emphysema is a chronic lung disease in which is the air sac or alveoli may be destroyed, stretched, collapsed, narrowed, or overinflated. Overinflation of the air sacs is a result of the breakdown of the alveoli walls which causes a decrease in respiratory function and breathlessness. Damage to the air sacs can not be fixed as it causes a permanent breakdown in the lower lung tissues.

Pulmonary emphysema is a part of a group of lung diseases which is called COPD that means chronic pulmonary obstructive disease. COPD causes blockage of the airflow and problems of breathing. The 2 most common conditions of COPD are chronic bronchitis including emphysema.

How Is Pulmonary Emphysema Diagnosed?

Along with a complete health history taking and physical examination, your health care provider may do the test for pulmonary function which helps to measure the lungs, ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. The test is often done with the special mechanics into which you breathe which includes:

Chest X-ray

This test takes picture of the internal tissues, bones, and organs. It is not recommended to diagnose COPD but it can help in detecting the other conditions.


Spirometry is a device used to check lung function as it is one of the simplest and commonest tests. It may be used to determine the severity of lung disease, find out if the lung disease is restrictive or obstructive, look for lung disease, and to see how the treatment is working.

Peak Flow Monitoring

This device is used to monitor how fast your lung can blow the air. Cough, inflammation, and mucus build-up can cause the large airways in the lungs to narrow slowly. This slows the speed of air leaving the lungs and this measurement is useful in seeing how well or how poorly the disease is being controlled.

Blood Test

These are done to check the amount of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the blood whereas it is also done to check the eosinophil counts and vitamin D levels. These tests are done to determine or monitor your hematocrit and hemoglobin levels for anemia.

CT Scan

This test uses a combination of X-rays and computed technology to make images. A CT scan can show details such as the width of the airway in the lungs as well as the thickness of the airway walls.

Sputum Culture

This sputum culture is done on the material that is coughed up from the lungs and into the mouth. A sputum culture is used to see the presence of infection. It may also be done to check eosinophil levels and it generally takes 2 days to get the result.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

This is a test that records the electrical activity of the heart which helps to detect abnormal rhythms and can also help to find out the damage of heart muscles.

How Is Pulmonary Emphysema Treated?

The goal of treatment for people with pulmonary emphysema is to live more comfortably with the disease which controls the symptoms as well as helps in preventing the disease from getting worse with minimal side effects. There is no way to repair the damaged lung tissue. Treatment may include:

Quitting Smoking

If you smoke then it is better to quit which is the most important step you can take to protect your lungs. It is never too late to quit As your doctor can help you to find the best-quitting method for you.

Bronchodilator Medications

These medicines relax the muscles around the airways which are often used to treat asthma. Bronchodilators, given through handheld inhalants and produce more immediate results and also have fewer side effects.

Anti-inflammatory Medication

These medications help in reducing the inflammation in the airways. However, long-term side effects of this drug include high blood pressure, fat redistribution, and osteoporosis.

Oxygen Therapy

Oxygen therapy is prescribed for those whose lungs are not getting enough oxygen. This patient can not absorb enough oxygen from the outside air and need to get me oxygen through a machine that includes the face mask or nasal catheter.

Lung Volume Reduction Surgery

lung volume reduction surgery is done by removing a portion of diseased lung tissue joining together the remaining tissue. This may relieve pressure on the breathing muscles and help improve lung elasticity. The results of the surgery have been very promising as not all patients with emphysema are candidates for this surgery.