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Emphysema Symptoms

Signs of Emphysema

Symptoms of emphysema describe what a person with emphysema feels. Signs of emphysema are what doctors look for to help identify emphysema and its severity. Signs of emphysema include:

  • Barrel chest: People with emphysema may have a rib cage that's larger than normal, especially from front to back. This results from the lung expansion in emphysema.
  • Clubbing: The tips of the fingers may become rounded, because of low blood oxygen levels in advanced emphysema.
  • Pursed-lip breathing: To make breathing easier in severe emphysema, people may breathe rapidly through pursed lips.
  • Polycythemia: The body produces an excessive amount of hemoglobin and red blood cells, which carry oxygen in the blood.
  • Hypoxemia (hypoxia): Low oxygen levels in the blood, detected on pulse oximetry or arterial blood gas testing.
  • Hypercarbia: High levels of carbon dioxide in the blood. This results from an inability to exhale carbon dioxide properly in emphysema.
  • Cyanosis: Blue-tinged lips, from low blood oxygen in severe emphysema.
  • Malnutrition: Muscles slowly waste away in advanced emphysema.

Most signs of emphysema develop only in its advanced stages, when emphysema symptoms are severe.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on May 23, 2014

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