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Treatment for pulmonary emphysema is done with the use of daily medications to expand the airways, such as bronchodilators and inhaled corticosteroids, indicated by the pulmonologist. It is also very important to adopt he althy lifestyle habits, especially avoiding smoking., in addition to performing respiratory rehabilitation exercises.
Lung emphysema, which is one of the forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is a chronic respiratory disease that has no cure, and its treatment is important to reduce symptoms and reduce the worsening of the disease, in addition to improving the he alth conditions and independence of the affected person. Learn to identify the symptoms of pulmonary emphysema.
In more severe cases, it may be necessary to use an oxygen mask, for a few hours or continuously, as well as surgery to reduce lung volume or even lung transplantation.
The use of medications that dilate the airways is the main form of treatment for emphysema, generally made in the form of inhalers. Some examples are:
- Short-acting beta-2-agonists, such as Fenoterol, Salbutamol and Terbutaline: they are used from the early stages of the disease, and should be inhaled whenever necessary or when symptoms get worse;
- Long-acting beta-2-agonists, such as Formoterol: most used in the intermediate phase of the disease, when symptoms are more prolonged, generally used daily;
- Anticholinergics such as Ipratropium Bromide: often used in conjunction with beta-2-agonists to enhance the dilating effect on the lungs;
- Methylxanthines, such as Aminophylline and Theophylline: may be an alternative in more severe cases, improving respiratory capacity, however, by causing many side effects, such as nausea, tremors and heartbeat heart rate, it should be used with caution and with regular medical follow-up.
Medicine pumps can already be composed of the combination of bronchodilators or in association with corticosteroids, to facilitate use and reduce the number of doses, as in the case of examples such as Seretide or Alenia, for example.
Corticosteroids are mainly used in the inhaled form. The continuous use of these drugs, together with bronchodilators, can reduce the worsening of lung function and the risk of complications, and should be indicated by the pulmonologist.
They are usually used twice a day, and can already be combined with bronchodilators in the same medication. Rinsing your mouth after use is recommended to reduce the risk of oral infections such as oral thrush.
Corticosteroids in pill form are not recommended for continuous use, as they cause many side effects and few benefits in the treatment of the disease.
3. Pulmonary rehabilitation
It is a physiotherapy treatment program that includes exercises to strengthen the chest muscles and improve breathing capacity, such as lung expansion exercises, stretching the breathing muscles, awareness of posture and correct breathing, providing a better ability to perform day-to-day activities. Learn more about this type of treatment.
In addition, it is recommended to perform physical exercises, such as walks with professional supervision, after medical advice, to improve physical conditioning, increase breathing capacity and reduce symptoms.
The use of a nasal oxygen catheter is indicated only in the most severe cases, in which the lungs can no longer supply the oxygenation of the body by themselves. They are prescribed by the doctor, and may be needed for a few hours or throughout the day.
People with pulmonary emphysema are at greater risk of acquiring respiratory infections, which should be avoided, both because they become more severe in these patients and because they worsen emphysema during crises.
For this reason, it is recommended that people with COPD receive a vaccine against Influenza annually, and against pneumococcal infections, avoiding cases of pneumonia and risk to life. Annual flu vaccines are also indicated.
6. Other remedies
N-Acetyl-Cysteine may be indicated in many cases due to its antioxidant and mucus-reducing properties.
Antibiotics may be necessary in case of respiratory infection caused by bacteria, which is not uncommon in patients with COPD.
Although it is rarer, in some more severe cases, the doctor may advise having surgery to remove the most affected parts of the lung, allowing the he althy regions to expand better and function more properly, however, this surgery is only performed in some very serious cases and in which the person can tolerate this procedure.
Lung transplantation may also be a possibility in specific cases, indicated by the doctor.
8. Quit smoking
Although it is not exactly a treatment, smoking is one of the main causes of pulmonary emphysema and, therefore, people who suffer from pulmonary emphysema should stop using cigarettes.
Even secondhand smoke or inhalation of industrial smoke, pollution, are a risk in the development of emphysema.So, drugs that help reduce or stop tobacco consumption can be included in the treatment, one of the main treatment goals being to make the person with pulmonary emphysema completely stop smoking.
Food can also help a lot to improve breathing, as carbohydrates, fat and proteins, when consumed, consume oxygen and release carbon dioxide. And since people with emphysema have difficulty with gas exchange in the lung, food can also help facilitate this process.
One of the nutrients that most consumes oxygen and releases carbon dioxide is carbohydrate. Thus, it is recommended that people with emphysema reduce the amount of carbohydrates in their diet, especially simple sugar, present in foods such as cookies, candies, cakes and other sweets. Thus, preference should be given to foods rich in fiber and good fats, which consume less oxygen, such as avocados, salmon, tuna, sardines or olive oil.
In any case, it is important to consult a nutritionist to make a well-adapted nutritional plan that meets all needs. This is because people with respiratory diseases and who are being treated with corticosteroids may still have decreased levels of calcium and vitamin D, which can be replenished with food.
Signs of improvement
Emphysema has no cure, so the symptoms do not go away completely. However, if the treatment is done correctly, after a few days it is possible to notice a decrease in almost all symptoms, such as shortness of breath, chest pain or cough.
Also, with treatment, there may be less difficulty doing activities that have become very tiring, such as going for walks.
Signs of worsening
Signs of worsening are more common in cases where treatment is not being adequate or when the disease progresses and becomes very severe, which is more common in cases where the diagnosis took a long time to be made.
These signs include extreme difficulty breathing, bluish fingers, a purplish face and intense wheezing when breathing. In these cases, it is advisable to go to the hospital immediately to start the appropriate treatment and avoid serious complications, such as cardiorespiratory arrest.
Natural treatment option
A treatment for pulmonary emphysema that can be done at home is to learn a physiotherapy exercise called lip frenum and perform it several times a day, as a way of complementing the treatment guided by the doctor, never replacing it. To do this, just inhale deeply and release the air through the mouth with the teeth parted and the lips half closed in order to move them with the air that comes out of the mouth.
This simple exercise strengthens the expiratory muscles and helps to completely eliminate air from the lungs, allowing more oxygen to enter the next inspiration and, preferably, should be guided by the physical therapist.