Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a lung disorder which can include emphysema and bronchitis. Emphysema symptoms make breathing more difficult and can impact your ability to participate in any activities that call for exertion. While symptoms may be mild to begin with, they can worsen over time to the point of completely incapacitating a person.
Getting Emphysema Diagnosed
This long-term disease is often a by-product of smoking. It can occur as a direct result of the habit or as a result of being subjected to second-hand smoke. It can also be caused by a deficiency of alpha-1-antitrypsin, an enzyme in the body. Exposure to air pollution is another factor. Some people have a hereditary predisposition to the disease. When your breathing is consistently difficult or when you become short of breath with little or no exertion, it is time to see the doctor. If you experience emphysema symptoms, a correct diagnosis is important for effective treatment. It is not unusual for older adults to assume that the shortness of breath they are experiencing is just a matter of growing older; however, it could be more serious than that.
One of the tell-tale signs of emphysema is shortness of breath. “Pursed-lipbreathing” is an indication that emphysema may be the cause of the problem. It’s difficult to completely exhale, so the person purses their lips leaving a small opening which causes increased pressure in the collapsed airways. This maneuver allows the airways to open so that trapped air can get out. Constantly breathing this way can cause the distance between the back and the chest to increase. Over time, a person may develop a “barrel chest.”
Mucus buildup causes coughing which is often associated with emphysema. Symptoms of the disease also include wheezing. These same symptoms are associated with asthma and other lung disorders so it is important that you have your condition diagnosed so you know what pulmonary issue you have.
Emphysema symptoms get worse over time and can be masked by other problems and lifestyle habits. If you don’t get regular exercise, you will never know if you seem to be losing lung capacity over time. It may show up when you walk up a flight of stairs; however, if this is not part of your regular routine, you may chalk it up to being out of shape.
If you find that you are becoming increasingly winded while performing certain tasks, it is important to check in with your doctor. Shortness of breath is also associated with other major health issues such as heart disease and other lung diseases. Regardless of whether or not you are a smoker or have been exposed to cigarette smoke, it is crucial to have any problems with breathing properly diagnosed as soon as possible to prevent or mitigate further damage to your lungs.