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Emphysema - Putting It All Together

Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 11:27

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Here is a summary of the important facts and information related to emphysema.

  • Emphysema is a chronic lung disease that reduces the lungs' ability to expand and contract.
  • When the air sacs in the lungs cannot expand and contract normally, less oxygen passes through the lungs to the body.
  • Cigarette smoking is the major cause of emphysema.
  • Diagnosis of emphysema is based on a review of symptoms, lung function tests, breathing patterns and, sometimes, x-rays or CT scans.
  • A substance called alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) is thought to protect against some of the damage caused by cigarette smoke or other irritants. People with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AAT deficiency) are at a higher risk for severe disease.
  • A blood test can establish the diagnosis of AAT deficiency.
  • There is currently no cure for emphysema, but the symptoms can be lessened with medication, supplemental oxygen, and proper nutrition
  • Lung reduction┬ásurgery and lung transplants are newer treatments for emphysema that are gaining acceptance but are still in the investigative phase.
  • For people with emphysema due to AAT deficiency, weekly infusions of alpha 1-proteinase inhibitor may slow lung tissue destruction.

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