Emphysema: Frequently Asked QuestionsThursday, March 22, 2012 - 11:28
Here are some frequently asked questions related to emphysema.
Q: Why do people with emphysema sometimes have problems with fluid retention and ankle swelling?
A: Swelling, or
- In addition to the gradual removal of lung tissue (which includes blood vessels) by progression of emphysema, as the amount of oxygen in the blood decreases, it causes blood vessels in the lungs to constrict.
- The blood pressure in the lungs rises, making it harder for the right side of the heart to pump blood to the lungs.
- This may result in an enlargement of the right side of the heart, called cor pulmonale, and edema.
- When the heart cannot pump blood efficiently, the movement of blood through the body slows, and the flow of blood to other organs decreases.
- Therefore, the liver and kidneys can no longer function normally. This leads to protein and salt imbalances, which cause fluid - mostly water - to "leak" into the spaces between the blood vessels and into the surrounding tissues and cells.
- Most of the fluid goes to areas that are not within the circulatory system or the cells, which normally act as "overflow containers." Since the fluid is not contained, it responds to the pull of gravity, often moving to the hands and feet.
Some medications, especially steroids, which are often prescribed for people with emphysema, can make edema worse.
Q: What is the treatment for edema?
A: Medications called diuretics, also called "water pills," are commonly used to treat edema. These medications increase urination, making your body shift fluid and salts from the blood. Other treatments are aimed at increasing the heart's ability to pump.
Q: What impact can nutrition and diet have on emphysema?
A: Plenty. First of all, food is fuel. Emphysema sufferers use extra energy in the simple act of breathing, so their caloric requirements can higher than those of healthy people. Food also provides vital vitamins and nutrients. Good nutritional support helps to maintain lung function, while improper nutrition can cause the
Q: Where can I find moral support to help me deal with a diagnosis of emphysema?
A: Contact the American Lung Association http://www.lungusa.org via the Internet or by telephone (toll-free, 1-800-LUNGUSA) to find a support group near you. Your local hospital also may sponsor a support group.
Q: It's hard to know if my breathing problems are being caused by asthma or emphysema. How can we tell?
A: Sometimes the first obvious symptom of emphysema is