There is no cure for emphysema. Damage done to the lungs in emphysema is irreversible. Treatment plans focus instead on preventing further damage and treating the symptoms of emphysema to help maintain and improve quality of life.
If smoking caused your emphysema, the single most important step in treating your disease is to quit smoking. Continuing to smoke will only cause more lung damage.
If you have emphysema, doctors recommend an annual flu shot and a pneumonia shot every five years. This prevents viral infections that could cause more lung damage or even prove fatal in patients with severely compromised lung function.
Bronchodilators relax constricted airways, relieving coughing and shortness of breath.
Inhaled steroids can help relieve any symptoms of emphysema caused by respiratory inflammation.
Some patients with gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD) aspirate stomach acids, which can exacerbate symptoms of emphysema. If you have emphysema, it's important to have your GERD properly diagnosed and treated.
Pulmonary Rehabilitation Programs
Pulmonary rehabilitation programs teach emphysema patients exercises and behaviors to help manage their symptoms. While research shows that pulmonary rehabilitation does not extend the life expectancy of emphysema patients, it does improve the quality of the remaining life span.
Supplemental oxygen has been shown to improve quality of life and extend life expectancy in emphysema patients with low oxygen levels.
Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial bronchitis and bacterial pneumonia in emphysema patients. Bacterial respiratory infections can lead to further lung damage and life threatening disease in emphysema patients.
Lung Volume Reduction Surgery
This experimental procedure is used to remove damaged portions of lung tissue with the goal of increasing lung efficiency and improving breathing. Any bullae, or areas of damaged lung filled with air bubbles, can also be removed to improve lung function.
Lung transplantation is sometimes an option for patients with severe emphysema who don't respond well to other treatments.
Certain lifestyle changes can improve your quality of life with emphysema and may even extend your life expectancy. Doctors recommend that you avoid respiratory irritants, exercise as much as possible to increase lung volume, drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids, avoid cold air, and maintain proper nutrition.