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Emphysema is a disease that damages the alveoli, or air sacs, in the lungs, reducing the surface area available for the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen and leading to difficulty breathing.

Along with chronic bronchitis, emphysema is one of the two main diseases leading to chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD).

Symptoms include shortness of breath, a mucus-producing cough, wheezing, chest tightness and recurring respiratory infections. If shortness of breath begins to interfere with daily tasks such as climbing the stairs, don’t dismiss it as typical aging or being out of shape, especially if you smoke or used to smoke. The number one cause of emphysema is smoking. Quitting is the best thing to prevent further damage.

The team at Pulmonary Consultants of San Antonio diagnoses emphysema with a variety of tests, including lung function tests, lab tests and imaging. Emphysema is not reversible, but treatments including medication, oxygen therapy or pulmonary rehabilitation can improve breathing and quality of life.

Click here to request an appointment or call us at 210-692-0361.

Questions & Answers

What is emphysema?

Emphysema is a disease that destroys the tiny air sacs inside your lungs, the alveoli. Over time, this greatly reduces the lung surface area so you can’t readily exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. That leads to severe breathing difficulties.

Emphysema is one of the two chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD). It commonly occurs at the same time as the other COPD, chronic bronchitis, and causes a number of breathing problems.

What causes emphysema?

The number one factor in emphysema development is cigarette smoking. Other factors, such as air pollutants, may also play a role in some cases. Emphysema is almost always preventable if you avoid cigarette smoking.

What are the symptoms of emphysema?

The most common emphysema symptom is shortness of breath, which is usually most pronounced during physical activity. Depending on disease severity and whether you also have chronic bronchitis as part of your COPD, you may also experience:

  • Mucus-producing cough
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Recurrent respiratory infections

In the later stages, emphysema can lead to weight loss and lower extremity swelling.

How is emphysema treated?

To determine the right emphysema treatment, the Pulmonary Consultants of San Antonio team starts with a physical exam, lung function tests, and lab testing. You may also need imaging tests such as chest X-rays or CT scans.

Emphysema treatment focuses on symptom management. While you can’t reverse the damage to the alveoli in your lungs, you can prevent further damage and manage your symptoms effectively.

If you smoke, it’s crucial that you stop. Pulmonary Consultants of San Antonio offers smoking cessation programs to help you quit the habit and protect your health.

You’ll likely need medication to relieve symptoms like trouble breathing and cough. For example, a bronchodilator can open your breathing passages to improve your airflow.

You may need oxygen therapy for severe breathing difficulties. Pulmonary rehabilitation can help you minimize breathing problems and improve your quality of life.

In the most severe cases of emphysema, some people need lung surgery to remove diseased tissue or a lung transplant.

Emphysema can be a challenging lung disease, but with the proper management strategies, you can breathe well and function normally. The Pulmonary Consultants of San Antonio team offers customized emphysema care with a compassionate touch, so call the office or click on the online appointment link.

10007 Huebner Road, Bldg 4
San Antonio, TX 78240
FAX: 210-692-0151

Monday: 8am-4:30pm
Tuesday: 8am-4:30pm
Wednesday: 8am-4:30pm
Thursday: 8am-4:30pm
Friday: 8am-4:30pm
Saturday: Closed
Sunday: Closed