A Look At Emphysema Prognosis
Because of the differences in severity in cases of emphysema prognosis cannot often be determined exactly. Even the results of a statistical analysis on the disease, and its expected outcome, may not mean a lot as far as an individual patient is concerned. Emphysema is a disease that, with exception of a lung transplant, is not curable. It is however treatable, and controllable.
Once the nature of the disease is understood, and the severity quantified in terms of the stages of emphysema prognosis can be stated in somewhat general terms. Given proper treatment so as to get the disease under control will enable those with only a mild case to live out a normal life span. Those with advanced emphysema face a much more difficult road to travel.
Just What Is Emphysema? - Emphysema is a disease which affects the lung in its ability to take in the amount of oxygen our body requires, and expel like amounts of carbon dioxide as waste. Our lungs consist of numerous tiny air sacs called alveoli. Between the alveoli are thin membranes containing capillary blood vessels. Oxygen stored in the air sacs is transferred to the blood through these membranes, to be replaced by carbon dioxide, which is passed back from the blood and through the membranes into the alveoli
The affects of emphysema are to destroy both the alveoli and the blood carrying capillaries in the lungs. This happens progressively, until what is causing the emphysema is removed. As the alveoli and blood vessels are destroyed, a person's ability to breathe becomes more and more difficult as lung capacity diminishes. In the latter stages of emphysema the tissues in the lung begin to lose their elasticity and the breathing problem becomes even more pronounced.
Stages Of Emphysema - There are several causes of emphysema and several treatments. By far the major cause is smoking, and the major treatment is cessation of smoking. If smoking is stopped in the early stages of emphysema, prognosis is generally quite good. The severity of the disease can be roughly split into four categories, (1) Mild emphysema, in which the lung function is near, but not quite normal, (2) Moderate emphysema, where the lung function is more than 50% of normal, but less than 80% of normal, (3) Severe emphysema, where lung function is between 1/3 and 1/2 the of normal capacity, and (4) Very severe emphysema, where the lung is functioning at less than a third of its normal capacity. With very severe emphysema prognosis is not very encouraging, and this stage is often refereed to as the end stage.
If the disease is allowed to progress, the prognosis steadily becomes less favorable, not only because of the steady decrease in lung function, but also because as the lung capacity diminishes, there is a greater chance for a lung infection, such as pneumonia, to develop, and a patient with moderate to advanced emphysema may have a very difficult battle to fight should this occur. In addition, as it becomes harder and harder to breathe, more stress is placed on the heart, and in the advance stages of emphysema, the chances of heart failure also increase.
Treatment Is Quite Basic - As mentioned earlier, the best treatment is to stop smoking. If a person with emphysema continues to smoke, any other treatment will be less effective, or not effective at all, and lung function will continue to deteriorate. Even if one quits smoking, lung function may in some instances continue to decline, but appropriate treatment can slow the decline significantly. Medication and oxygen therapy are the most common types of treatment provided, and antibiotics are often prescribed at the first sign of any pulmonary infection. Surgery, to remove a portion of the lung that is no longer functioning is sometimes an option, but surgery is not often called for except in very severe cases. Most people who have emphysema are 50 or over, and some have other problems as well including chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders (COPD) which can make surgery risky.
Emphysema is not a pleasant disease. If you are a smoker, the best way, and perhaps the only way to avoid, it is to quit. No sense spending your later years having to continually fight for a normal breath.