More than 15 million Americans suffer from COPD, with 3.5 million of those patients being diagnosed with emphysema. COPD, also known as emphysema and chronic bronchitis, is the third-leading cause of death in the United States. The good news is that COPD is often preventable and treatable. UofL Physicians – Pulmonology Associates runs one of the most successful and comprehensive COPD disease management programs in the state of Kentucky.

Emphysema is a form of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease commonly known as COPD. In severe emphysema, the walls of the air sacs in the lungs called the alveoli are weakened and ruptured, creating larger air spaces – this is known as hyperinflation.

When this occurs, the air sacs do not work properly and old air becomes trapped in the damaged areas. This causes the diseased parts of the lung to get larger and put pressure on the healthy parts of the lungs and diaphragm. As a result, patients may find it difficult to breathe properly and take full, deep breaths.

COPD is a progressive disease and gets worse over time. Emphysema is a severe form of COPD. People who suffer from emphysema live with severe shortness of breath that often prevents them from doing simple daily activities without pausing to catch their breath or resting.

Symptoms of emphysema include the following: 

  • Inability to catch your breath
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Persistent cough
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty performing normal daily activities such as bathing, getting dressed, doing housework, walking or eating without feeling breathless
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Blue or gray lips or fingernails when active
  • Frequent respiratory infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia
  • Production of sputum or phlegm

If you experience any of these symptoms and are not currently being treated, you should speak to your doctor immediately.

Emphysema cannot be cured, but the right treatment can help you breathe better, be more active, and improve your quality of life.

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