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Is There a Cure for Emphysema?

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  • Written By: Henry Gaudet
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2016
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An internet search of the phrase “cure for emphysema” will provide hundreds of articles outlining research and promising advances. It also will produce a vast array of supposed miracle cures and treatments, including vitamin dosing, herbal remedies, diet, yoga and similar practices. Despite these claims, there is no known cure for emphysema. Treatments for emphysema slow or halt the disease’s progress and might help the sufferer to better deal with the symptoms but cannot undo damage to the lungs.

Emphysema is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in which the air sacs within the lungs lose their elasticity. Over time, the air sacs become dilated, and the lungs fill with air that they cannot expel, causing the shortness of breath associated with the disease. No treatment or procedure is able to restore this elasticity, meaning that no genuine cure for emphysema exists.

Air pollution, age, gender and heredity are all risk factors for emphysema, but the major cause of the disease is smoking. Cigarette smoke causes inflammation and irritation in the lungs, eventually resulting in long-term lung tissue damage. According to the American Lung Association, smoking is directly responsible for causing at least 80 percent of COPD, including emphysema.

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There is no cure for emphysema, but there is plenty that patients can do to minimize the disease’s effect. Smokers are, of course, advised to quit in order to avoid further lung damage. Overweight patients can reduce symptom severity by reducing weight through diet and exercise. A doctor can help develop plans for both of these, ensuring that all nutritional needs are met and that exercises are effective without causing undue strain.

Deep breathing exercises can help to strengthen the diaphragm and help patients to draw in more air with practice. Simply blowing through pursed lips can help the patient force more air from the lungs and make inhalation easier. Medical professionals can guide patients through some simple breathing exercises and can suggest resting positions that will aid drainage if needed.

Prescription medication might also be necessary to treat emphysema. Bronchodilators, for instance, might be needed to open the airways. In some cases, supplemental oxygen might be prescribed as well.

Surgical options might be helpful for some patients. Lung volume reduction surgery removes a damaged portion of the lungs so that it does not impede the rest of the organ. Transplants represent the closest procedure to a true cure for emphysema by replacing the damaged organ with a healthy lung.

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