There is no cure for emphysema, but there are treatments and therapies that can help relieve symptoms of the disease. They include:
- Smoking cessation drugs
- Bronchodilators to bring relief from coughing and shortness of breath
- Inhaled corticosteroids for short-term relief
- Pulmonary rehabilitation: This program teaches you breathing techniques to help reduce breathlessness and improve your ability to exercise.
- Supplemental oxygen: Your physician may recommend that you breathe oxygen from a tank, via a narrow tube that fits into your nose.
- Lung volume reduction surgery: Surgeons remove small wedges of damaged lung tissue in order to help the remaining lung tissue function more efficiently.
- Lung transplant surgery: If all other options have failed, this may be an option for severe emphysema.
Reducing your risks
There are steps you can take to halt emphysema’s progression:
- Stop smoking: This is the single most important thing you can do for your overall health and may halt the progression of emphysema.
- Avoid secondhand smoke: This can also help you prevent emphysema from getting worse.
- Avoid respiratory irritants: Changing furnace filters and air conditioner filters frequently can help reduce airborne pollutants. Avoiding paint and automobile exhaust fumes and other airborne irritants can help.
- Exercise: Regular exercise can help increase your lung capacity.
- Beware of cold air: Cold air can cause bronchial spasms, which may make it difficult to breathe. During cold weather, you should wear a scarf or a cold-air mask over your mouth and nose to warm the air entering your lungs. A cold-air mask can be found at a pharmacy.
- Avoid respiratory infections: Annual flu shots and a pneumonia vaccination can help you protect your lungs from infection. Take careful steps to avoid getting colds or the flu.
- Wear a mask while working: If you work with chemical fumes or dust, wear a filtration mask to protect your lungs.