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Smoking Cessation Health Center

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Johnny Carson Dies From Common Lung Disease

Emphysema Is Irreversible, Smoking Main Cause

What are the symptoms of emphysema?

Early symptoms include shortness of breath and cough. People with emphysema often also have chronic bronchitis, in which the person develops a long-lasting cough that produces mucus. Wheezing is often also present in people with emphysema.

How is emphysema treated?

Lung damage due to emphysema is irreversible. The single most important treatment is to stop smoking. Quitting smoking helps slow the progression of emphysema. Treatment also improves shortness of breath.

Medications, including inhalers to help relax the lung and open the airways, are often used. Anti-inflammatory steroids are also used if the person has a sudden worsening with increased shortness of breath.

Exercise can be very helpful to help strengthen the breathing muscles and improve overall condition.

Rarely, surgery is performed. Lung transplantation can be effective in some cases. A relatively new surgery, called lung volume reduction surgery, can help improve breathing. In this surgery the most severely diseased portion of the lung is removed. This procedure is very risky in people with very severe emphysema and research has shown that these people are at an increased risk of death with this surgery.

What is the prognosis of emphysema?

Although emphysema cannot be cured, its symptoms can be treated and your quality of life can be improved. The prognosis or outlook for the future depends on how well the lungs are functioning, symptoms, and how well the person responds to and follows treatment.

Can emphysema be prevented?

Since most people who develop emphysema are smokers, the best way to prevent this lung disease is not to smoke.

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