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Pulmonary emphysema


Pulmonary emphysema is a disease that affects the lungs. It is characterized by the destruction of the alveolar walls, and consequently a distension of the alveoli. The air that the latter contain cannot be completely expired. Emphysema may be located in part of the lung or diffused throughout the whole pulmonary system. It may be punctual, or more often a response to chronic lung diseases such as silicosis, tuberculosis, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), with chronic smoking being at the root of the problem. This disease can be debilitating and lead to respiratory failure or heart failure.


The main symptom of emphysema is a respiratory discomfort during breathing that gradually increases with the disease's progression. Typically, breathing is faster and the time needed to exhale is longer. Two main types of emphysema exist: centrilobular and pan-lobular. The clinical Symptoms are slightly different. Centrilobular emphysema is the most common and affects smokers who are often overweight. Panlobular emphysema is rare and affects non-smokers as well as sometimes leaner younger subjects.


Auscultation and especially a chest radiograph can show a distended chest, a long breathing time with a weak inspiration that is accompanied by snoring. Arterial blood gases tests will show abnormalities found in the lungs with a decrease in the amount of blood in oxygen. Examinations of respiratory capacity and respiratory function tests are often carried out as well.


Tobacco is absolutely forbidden and one should also avoid secondhand smoking. Bronchodilators are often necessary to increase the diameter of the bronchi. Their use is complemented by chest physiotherapy sessions and advanced oxygen therapy (mask or nasal tube that blows oxygen). In cases of severe respiratory failure, a lung transplantation is sometimes attempted.


To prevent pulmonary emphysema, the patient must definitively quit smoking tobacco. Ideally, the best way to protect oneself is to never start smoking.

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