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Pulmonary Emphysema: What it is and how this condition originates

Pulmonary Emphysema means puffy insufflation of air and is based on changes suffered by the lungs almost always due to the tobacco habit.

Pulmonary Emphysema

Pulmonary Emphysemaa term that comes from the Greek It means insufflation of air, it is based on changes suffered by the lungs, almost always due to the habit of smoking..

In a very schematic way it could be said that The lung is made up of two compartments:

  • The bronchiwhich branch from the trachea successively, up to more than 20 times, with an increasingly thinner diameter, up to 1 mm and whose main function is as a pipe for air transport.
  • The alveoliwhich are millions of spherical microscopic units as if they were clusters, with very thin walls much thinner than the thinnest paper and whose function is to filter oxygen from the air to the capillaries (last and microscopic ramifications of the pulmonary circulation)

Tobacco components either directly due to toxic effect or due to inflammationare the cause of the walls of the alveoli being “digested”, break like soap foam or pores of a sponge. This is Emphysema.

If we deployed all the alveoli of healthy lungs like “a dropdown“you get a surface the size of a tennis court, thanks to which the surface of the “filter” is very extensive. In Emphysema When the alveoli break down, the filter surface becomes smaller.decreases, making oxygen transport less efficient.

The main symptom is choking when walking, especially on slopes and stairs.. A healthy person can imagine taking in air, and without taking it out, start running. Many smokers will have had cough and sputum for years, but have “dismissed” it as a warning symptom.

Diagnosis of Pulmonary Emphysema

Emphysema It is diagnosed with:

  • Respiratory function laboratory: Spirometry, Bronchodilator Test, Plethysmography and Diffusion (DLCO). The earliest is the decrease in DLCO
  • Chest CT (scanner), since the x-ray is unreliable and too late. Thanks to three-dimensional reconstructions with CT It is known that Emphysema usually begins in the upper regions of the lungs, and descends. The images imitate the racing of stockings or the breaking of a net. Emphysema, at first, is more of a warning than terrible news, but it is known that if you continue smoking, bronchial obstruction will advance, causing a decrease in oxygen in the blood (Respiratory Failure). The greater the amount of tobacco accumulated, the greater Emphysema, although the relationship is not totally proportional. Infrequently it may happen that, even if you quit smoking, if chronic colonization of the bronchi has already occurred, the disease does not stop and even progresses

The retained air from Emphysema can deform the chest (in the shape of a barrel) and there are even patients who explain that they do not sink in the pool.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Emphysema is a risk factor for Lung Cancerand the discovery of a lung nodule, these patients should be studied immediately.

Emphysema is part of a syndrome called Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The characteristic of COPD is that the FEV1/FVC ratio (spirometry parameters), is less than 70%.

Alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, which is a rare hereditary disease, It also produces emphysema. On the contrary, asthmathat also produces bronchial obstruction (no smoking) It is not a cause of Emphysema.

Emphysema is irreversible and therefore, The sooner you quit tobacco the better. What can be improved is the obstruction with the use of bronchodilators and anti-inflammatories, and antibiotics. While Respiratory Failure is treated with oxygen.