ABC Medical Center > Pulmonary emphysema

What is Pulmonary emphysema?

21:56 - 4 May , 2021


It is a condition that hinders the respiratory capacity because the pulmonary alveoli are weakened or broken, which leads to the formation of larger air spaces, hindering the exit of carbon dioxide and reducing the entry of oxygen.

People with pulmonary emphysema usually suffer from chronic bronchitis, a condition in which the bronchial tubes are inflamed, causing a recurring cough. Both pulmonary emphysema and chronic bronchitis give rise to what is known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), in which smoking is the main culprit.

This disease, characterized by shortness of breath, evolves gradually until the person suffering from it is unable to breathe, even when at rest. Like any condition, some factors increase the risk of suffering from pulmonary emphysema, the most common are: 

  • Pollution.
  • It is more frequent between the ages of 45 and 65.
  • Indirect exposure to tobacco or marijuana smoke.
  • Smoking.
  • Chemical substances.

Signs and symptoms Pulmonary emphysema

At the beginning of the disease, there may be no symptoms or the discomfort may be very mild, but as it progresses, the symptoms include:

  • Difficulty breathing, especially after physical exercise.
  • Swelling of feet, ankles, or legs.
  • Recurrent respiratory infections.
  • Chest pressure.
  • Decreased body weight.
  • Persistent cough
  • Noises or wheezing when breathing.

Potential risks:

  • Pneumothorax.
  • Heart failure.
  • Respiratory insufficiency.

Diagnosis and treatment Pulmonary emphysema

If you have these symptoms or any other that makes it difficult for you to breathe, you must see your doctor, who, in addition to performing a physical examination and analyzing your medical history, will request laboratory and imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, and pulmonary function tests to help determine if it is pulmonary emphysema.

Although there is no cure for this condition, various treatments help counteract the symptoms and slow down its development, including:

  • Antibiotics, in case of a bacterial infection.
  • Bronchodilators.
  • Corticosteroid inhalers.

You may also require:

  • Pulmonary rehabilitation program.
  • Nutrition plan.
  • Oxygen therapy.

If your emphysema is very advanced, the alternative to follow is lung volume reduction through surgical removal of the damaged tissue, or if the respiratory capacity is almost zero, a lung transplant will be necessary.

The best way to prevent pulmonary emphysema is to stop smoking and avoid exposure to tobacco smoke, exercise regularly, protect yourself from cold air and irritating chemicals, and get vaccinated against pneumonia and influenza.

At ABC Medical Center’s Internal Medicine Department, we offer health care services with the highest quality and safety, from the prevention, diagnosis, timely treatment, and monitoring of infectious, respiratory, endocrinological, dermatological, rheumatic, nephrological, gastrointestinal, and hematological pathologies of both chronic-degenerative diseases and acute conditions, through a comprehensive and multidisciplinary model.


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