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Emphysema: Treatment, Procedure, Cost and Side Effects

What is the treatment?

Emphysema is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder that causes air sacs in the lung to get enlarged and also causes them to lose elasticity. This can cause a person to get seriously ill by causing serious breathing problems. This condition causes the alveoli present at the end of the bronchioles to get enlarged. This happens due to the break-down of the walls of the alveoli or if the air-sacs get stretched, collapsed, narrowed or over-inflated. When a person has less number of healthy sacs, his/her body has a smaller area for the entry of oxygen into his/her blood and exit of carbon di-oxide from it. People suffering from emphysema also tend to suffer from chronic bronchitis. These two conditions together make up chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Emphysema occurs when a person is exposed for a long time to airborne irritants like tobacco smoke, air pollution, chemical fumes, dust and also marijuana smoke. The treatment may consist of medications like bronchodilators, antibiotics and inhaled steroids, other treatments like pulmonary rehabilitation, supplemental oxygen and nutrition therapy and even surgical procedures like lung transplant and lung volume reduction surgery.

It is not possible to treat emphysema permanently. Treatment can reduce the symptoms and help to stop the progression of the condition.

How is the treatment done?

The primary treatment should revolve around avoiding environmental irritants. A person should stop smoking and also avoid breathing secondhand smoke. It is also essential for a person who works with chemical fumes or dust to wear a mask to protect his/her lungs.

Different types of medications may be advised depending on the severity of the condition. Bronchodilators are medications that help a person to get relief from coughing, shortness of breath and from breathing problems in general by easing the constricted airways. Corticosteroids may be recommended to reduce inflammation and they also help to overcome breathing problems. Antibiotics are prescribed when a person suffers from any bacterial infection like bronchitis or pneumonia. Furthermore, pulmonary rehabilitation therapy teaches a person some breathing exercises and techniques that help a person to reduce his/her breathlessness. Maintaining a proper diet is essential for containing emphysema. People with early stage emphysema may need to lose weight while a person suffering from late-stage emphysema may need to gain weight. Supplemental oxygen may be needed to be provided to a person suffering from severe emphysema.

A person may be required to undergo a surgery if the condition requires so. In a lung volume reduction surgery, a surgeon removes small wedges of damaged lung tissue. This procedure helps to improve breathing by removing the dead tissue and thereby allowing the remainder of the lung tissues to expand to work more efficiently.

Who is eligible for the treatment? (When is the treatment done?)

A person is eligible for treatment after he/she has undergone a medical examination and has been diagnosed to be suffering from such. A person in the initial stage of this condition may suffer from shortness of breath or may get easily exerted. However, as the disease progresses, other serious symptoms may include: wheezing, fatigue, anxiety, depression, sleep problems, morning headaches due to lack of oxygen, lot of mucus and frequent lung infections. A person suffering from some or all of these symptoms is eligible for treatment.

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

A person will not be eligible for treatment if a doctor does not diagnose him/her to be suffering from such. However, some of the tests that may help a doctor to understand whether a person is actually suffering from emphysema or not are imaging tests including computerized tomography and noninvasive lung function tests. A person who has not been diagnosed to be suffering from emphysema even after undergoing these tests is not eligible with treatment.

Are there any side effects?

The side-effects of bronchodilators may include diarrhea, palpitation, rapid heartbeat, irregular heartbeat, headache, insomnia and nausea. Corticosteroids, when used for a fairly longer period, can cause hypertension, weight gain, diabetes, disorder of the eyes, bruising, thinning of the skin, osteoporosis and even cause a person to be easily susceptible to infections. Some of the side-effects of lung volume reduction surgery include pneumonia or infection, bleeding, stroke, air leakage from the lung tissue and in some extreme cases, it may also result in death.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

A person who has undergone treatment for emphysema should adopt a few measures so as to avoid deterioration of the condition. One of the most important steps is to stop smoking as this measure can help to stop the progression of the condition. He/she should also avoid coming in contact with other respiratory irritants like fumes from paint, automobile exhaust and certain perfumes. Other measures include exercising regularly, protecting oneself from cold air, get required vaccinations and also should also avoid coming in contact with respiratory infections.

How long does it take to recover?

A person who has undergone treatment for emphysema should adopt a few measures so as to avoid deterioration of the condition. One of the most important steps is to stop smoking as this measure can help to stop the progression of the condition. He/she should also avoid coming in contact with other respiratory irritants like fumes from paint, automobile exhaust and certain perfumes. Other measures include exercising regularly, protecting oneself from cold air, get required vaccinations and also should also avoid coming in contact with respiratory infections.

What is the price of the treatment in India?

The cost of an intermittent updaft nebulization is Rs around Rs 750 for three treatments. Corticosteroid medications are available within a price range of Rs 300 – Rs 1000. Antibiotic tablets are available within a price range of Rs 25- Rs 500 per box. Lung volume reduction surgery is very expensive and may cost more than Rs 10 lakhs.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

There is no permanent solution for emphysema. Treatment can stop the condition from deteriorating but total cure is not possible. A person who starts smoking again or if is exposed to even second-hand smoke has the risk of getting the condition deteriorated. People working in conditions which expose them to environmental pollutants also need to take precautions.

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

Staying hydrated can help to reduce the symptoms of emphysema. Water intake helps to clear the mucus which results in uncontrollable coughing. Cardio exercises help to strengthen respiratory muscles and thereby helps a person to quit smoking. Other things that may help to treat with emphysema is eucalyptus oil, ginseng and N-acetylcysteine.

Safety: Disease Effectiveness: High Timeliness: High Relative Risk: Medium Side Effects: Low Time For Recovery: Medium Price Range:

Rs 25 - Rs 10 lakhs

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Table of Content

What is the treatment?
How is the treatment done?
Who is eligible for the treatment? (When is the treatment done?)
Who is not eligible for the treatment?
Are there any side effects?
What are the post-treatment guidelines?
How long does it take to recover?
What is the price of the treatment in India?
Are the results of the treatment permanent?
What are the alternatives to the treatment?
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