Emphysema: Can you recognize the symptoms?

Emphysema is a respiratory disease where the millions of tiny air sacs in the lungs (alveoli) are damaged or ruptured. As these tiny air sacs are damaged they lose their natural elasticity and this causes the air sacs to close before you fully breathe out (exhale), as a result air gets trapped in the lungs.

What is Emphysema?

Emphysema is a respiratory disease where the millions of tiny air sacs in the lungs (alveoli) are damaged or ruptured. As these tiny air sacs are damaged they lose their natural elasticity and this causes the air sacs to close before you fully breathe out (exhale), as a result, air gets trapped in the lungs. This trapped air makes the lungs become bigger (hyperinflated) and it is much harder for the breathing muscles around your chest to get air in and your lungs, making you feel breathless. Emphysema is a progressive disease and as it progresses the lungs lose the ability to absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide, creating the feeling of not being able to catch your breath.

What Causes Emphysema?

Emphysema is commonly caused by smoking and or prolonged exposure to air pollutants, toxins or dust. There are a small number of people who may have a genetic disease inherited from an alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, which may also cause emphysema.

What are the signs of Emphysema?

The signs of emphysema are the same no matter what the cause. At first, you may not notice any signs as it may take years to develop, however almost everybody suffering from Emphysema in time will develop shortness of breath. Initially, you may feel it only when doing a strenuous activity such as exercising, but as the disease progresses, you will notice it doing everyday activities, and then eventually you may be short of breath much of the day, even whilst resting or sleeping.

Other signs may include symptoms such as; wheezing, coughing, constant fatigue, ‘barrel-like’ chest, difficulty sleeping, weight loss, coughing up mucus, blue lips or nail beds, loss of appetite or morning headache.

What is the Treatment for Emphysema?

Currently, no treatment can stop or reverse Emphysema. Treatment involves assisting to manage, help to slow progress, and to relieve the symptoms. Doctors top advice is to stop smoking if you are a smoker and to remove yourself from any potential air pollutant/toxin/dust exposures. 

Traditional Forms of Treatment

  • Bronchodilators – help to open the airways and relax the muscles around the airways
  • Anti-inflammatory Medication – helps to reduce inflammation
  • Oxygen Therapy – helps assist to maintain a satisfactory oxygen blood level

Other Optional Treatments

It is advised that avoiding any foods that cause excess gas and bloating such as carbonated beverages, fried or processed foods, may help emphysema. Alternatively, you could try baked foods, steamed vegetables, fruit smoothies, and water. Although emphysema causes shortness of breath it is recommended that gentle exercises can improve stamina and strengthen muscles. Regular use of a therapeutic oscillating positive expiratory pressure (OPEP) flutter device like the Turboforte™ may provide relief by clearing the mucus from your airway and strengthening your lungs. Ask your doctor if you would benefit from using an OPEP device and what type of amount and exercise would be best for you.

If you are diagnosed with emphysema, the most positive thing you can do is to check ways to minimize symptoms and seek advice from your health care professional. Your health care professional can provide an individualized respiratory rehabilitation program for you with updated information, recent research data, support and education. They will provide you with effective management techniques, and tips for adapting to emphysema. 


This information is designed to support, not replace, the relationship between patient and health care professional. It is not intended to and cannot provide you with health or medical
advice. Always speak with your health care professional about your medical issues and concerns. No claims are made or implied in the use of or result from using the Turboforte™.

Interested in Turboforte?

Turboforte Lung Physio is a handheld drug-free lung expansion & mucus relief device that helps clear congestion from airways and lungs making breathe easier.

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