Aa
A
A
A
Close
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder Community
1.46k Members
Avatar universal

Please describe your experience with emphysema.

Cigarette smoking is the primary cause of emphysema.    Emphysema is a long-term, progressive disease of the lungs that primarily causes shortness of breath due to over-inflation of the alveoli (air sacs in the lung). In people with emphysema, the lung tissue involved in exchange of gases (oxygen and carbon dioxide) is impaired or destroyed. Emphysema is included in a group of diseases called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD (pulmonary refers to the lungs). Emphysema is called an obstructive lung disease because airflow on exhalation is slowed or stopped because over-inflated alveoli do not exchange gases when a person breaths due to little or no movement of gases out of the alveoli.Emphysema changes the anatomy of the lung in several important ways. This is due to in part to the destruction of lung tissue around smaller airways. This tissue normally holds these small airways, called bronchioles, open, allowing air to leave the lungs on exhalation. When this tissue is damaged, these airways collapse, making it difficult for the lungs to empty and the air (gases) becomes trapped in the alveoli.Normal lung tissue looks like a new sponge. Emphysematous lung looks like an old used sponge, with large holes and a dramatic loss of “springy-ness” or elasticity. When the lung is stretched during inflation (inhalation), the nature of the stretched tissue wants to relax to its resting state. In emphysema, this elastic function is impaired, resulting in air trapping in the lungs. Emphysema destroys this spongy tissue of the lung and also severely affects the small blood vessels (capillaries of the lung) and airways that run throughout the lung. Thus, not only is airflow affected but so is blood flow. This has dramatic impact on the ability for the lung not only to empty its air sacs called alveoli (pleural for alveolus) but also for blood to flow through the lungs to receive oxygen.COPD as a group of diseases is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Unlike heart disease and other more common causes of death, the death rate for COPD appears to be rising.
75 Responses
Avatar universal
I had a quadruple bypass 3 years ago. To make a long story short my cardiologist told me that I had the early signs of emphysema and that my heart was also slightly enlarged. I continued to smoke, but found myself increasingly fatigued. Simple things like walking down the street were very difficult. I have finally stopped smoking with help from the patch. I have not had a smoke for 14 days now and immediately felt the benefits of not smoking. It's not easy but I am determined to succeed. I want to feel good, and alive and energetic besides, I have a 10 month old grandson and I want to watch him grow up.
Avatar universal
I've had emphysema for four years. I am taking Spiriva and Advair. I started with oxygen at night, now all day long. Nothing seems to help. The minute I start to walk around the breathing gets bad. Even the oxygen doesn't seem to help.
Avatar universal
I have severe COPD and take Spiriva, Seretide, salbutamol nebs (2x daily) and ventolhattin as needed during the day. I have found exercising to be of great benefit to me. It keeps up the strength in my legs and somehow enables me to breathe better. If I dont exercise I can feel myself getting weaker and breathless. When one gets like that it is easy to stop moving about and just give in to it. So if you want to feel a lot better start walking or cycling, eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and above all throw away the cigarettes.
Avatar universal
I have recently (two months ago) been diagnosed with emphysema. I have been a smoker for 20 years. I quit smoking two months ago; the next day I was diagnosed. I currently work every day, but I am finding it more difficult energy-wise. I am also dealing with personality change (mood swings), and I wonder if it is from my disease or from recently quitting smoking.
Avatar universal
About 10 years ago I started having breathing problems. I went to a doctor and found out that I have emphysema. About 30 years ago I had quit smoking and thought I had gotten away disease-free. I was waking up coughing up mucus. I had to have a cigarette to stop coughing. Now I'm retired and living with my disease. I use mostly Combivent to control my symptoms. I tried more expensive medications without success. Physical condition has a lot to do with symptoms. When I gain weight I have problems. Right now I'm switching to a new diet in hopes of improving blood flow.
Avatar universal
I've had COPD about 20 years, after 25 years of asthma. It changed but every doctor said it was still asthma. I was diagnosed 4 years ago. But whenever I look at what the symptoms are one of them is cough. I don't have one and even when I smoked (21 years ago) I didn't. I have short days because I'm so tired after 6 or 7 hrs being up. Being out all day makes me feel like a rag doll the next. Also, the winters are getting worse. Cold wind knocks the air right out of me. I'd really like some input about the lack of cough.
Avatar universal
I am a woman of 79. I stopped smoking in November 1993.  I have had emphysema for about four years, although as far back as 6 years ago I found that I was having trouble walking up steps. I try to exercise, but have no strength in my legs and lose all energy.  I do get breathless and cough a bit, but I found that a nasal spray clears out a lot of the mucus and cuts down the coughing. The things that bother me the most are the cramps.  I get them in my legs, body, and hands mostly.  They are extremely painful and take a lot of heat to dissipate. I find that a large glass of water and deep breathing also help.  I can't find anyone else who also gets these horrors and I'm wondering if they are symptoms of something else and not just lack of oxygen to the muscles.
Avatar universal
I am the caregiver and daughter of a patient who has emphysema. My mother is 78 and was diagnosed with this disease more than 10 years ago, but she still continues to smoke.  Two of her 4 brothers have already died from the disease.  Her 2 brothers who are still living (one older and one younger) both smoke and they also have the disease.  All of them have been heavy smokers their entire life and they refuse to give up smoking.  My mom and her brothers have to be on oxygen all night and the majority of the day and their quality of life is very minimal Ð yet, they continue to smoke.  They can't walk very well or do any activities that they once enjoyed doing and they still smoke.  Right now my mother has deteriorated so much that she is on hospice.  Her oxygen level is around 82 to 85% on most days.    She is pretty much confined to the house and spends most of her time in her bedroom under oxygen.  My father also had the disease and it weakened his heart to the point where he had a heart attack and passed away 14 years ago. He also was a smoker.  It is very difficult for a loved one to see so many of their family members suffer from this disease, but to know they are so sick and they still smoke is almost unbearable. I have never smoked and never will, but I have been around second hand smoke for many years so there are times I wonder about my fate.  If you have the disease and you are reading this please remember your loved ones are suffering too.  Watching a person you love fade away is very heartbreaking.  If you can break the habit of smoking do it for yourself and for those who love you.
Avatar universal
My mother is a heavy smoker. Before Christmas, my mother was taken to the hospital and was told that she has emphysema. She is only 50 years old. This disease changed my mother's life. She used to be out every morning helping elderly people and volunteering at the church and other things. Now, she can barely walk a flight of stairs. This is really frightening.
Avatar universal
To all those involved in the treatment and warning, I applaud all of you. I am a COPD patient since 1995. I haven't smoked in 16 years, but the damage was done long ago. I am now 72 years old, and now my doctor suggests lung reduction. My CT scan showed that the upper part of my lungs is destroyed by emphysema. I have 37 percent left in my lungs that do not get enough air because of the blockage from emphysema and the scarring. I have to make a decision about the lung reduction. I am kind of scared of the surgery considering my age. On a lighter note, your article was very informative and I want to thank you. It gave me more information than my physician.   Sincerely,  Phyllis
Avatar universal
I am 28 years old and the daughter to my mother who is 63 and has mild/moderate emphysema. I have needed to find any information possible on the treatment of this disease as frankly I find watching my mum suffer everyday just sometimes too much to bear. She found out 3 years ago about her disease. I feel much is kept 'hush hush' from me as I know she doesn't want me to worry. She was hospitalized once, released and still continued to smoke not taking it very seriously and then a year later found herself in the same position again and it was the scariest thing of my life!!! Finally after much emotional begging from me and my family and telling her I couldn't bear to watch her do this to herself she listened and stopped smoking. I knew she 'had' a chance to make a difference to stop smoking and then amazingly she did-cold turkey. She had smoked from had the age of 16 to 61 so I knew how difficult it would be for her-I have never been SO SO proud of her. I  am so proud of her but I still have to deal with this and want to do anything to help her as our bond between mother and daughter means everything to me!! Your website has helped me so much and the phase 'it's not a death sentence but a disease to be treated' made my heart so much lighter.
Avatar universal
My father is a physician and 68 years old. He has been smoking since he was in medical college and now for 2 years, he has been diagnosed with emphysema. He didn't share it with anyone, but as a daughter and as I am a physiotherapist myself, I forced him to get x-ray chest done. It was then that I came to know. He is having cold and cough almost all the days since 2 years. He is practicing and doing all the activities and has a healthy lifestyle, but due to coughing, at night he is not able to sleep properly and have to sit up many times. This makes me and my mother very worried and we feel very bad but helpless. He is not ready to stop smoking though he has reduced the amount he smokes. I can't see him suffering and get worried about future as it is progressive. He is doctor himself so I can't tell him anything as he knows the consequences, but I am worried and caring daughter.
Avatar universal
I am a long term smoker and I have just been diagnosed with this horrible disease. I first started to experience difficulty in breathing about 10months ago since then it has got progressively worse, I have come back from the hospital today where I was told that it is damaging the right side of my heart. I don't know if I can give up smoking even though it is putting me through this and if I do I am told I cannot repair the damage.
Avatar universal
A friend of mine passed out and was admitted into the hospital. The doctors gave him a diagnosis of COPD and pneumonia.  He was given medication and discharged. While taking the medication he was fine but once they were done, the coughing returned. He can't hold a conversation for more than 3 minutes before the coughing starts. He is a very heavy smoker and refuses to quit. Not to mention his allergies. He doesn't eat well and works 12 hours 6 days a week, maybe eating a bagel for breakfast, no fruits or vegetables and McDonalds for dinner. What can you say is his life expectancy? Really afraid for him.
Avatar universal
I am 63yrs old and was diagnosed 10yrs ago.I am still a smoker.I am the only person I know who gets blackouts from this condition,I never see any reference to this in any literature anywhere and yet this was the the reason I was diagnosed as having emphysema.from reading this website I find I have mild emphysema.it is not progressing as fast as other people I know who have this condition.The potential harm from the blackouts causes me more concern than the cause.
Avatar universal
Right after my 58th birthday I was informed by my doctor after having some chest X-rays that I had mild emphysema. I had smoked for 35 years. I kept smoking and started getting sick about 3 or 4 months later.  I ended up in intensive care for six days in septic shock from double pneumonia and almost died.
Avatar universal
I was diagnosed with emphysema in 2008, I have to be on oxygen 16 hours minimum. I have 27% lung function. I have lost count of the times that I have been hospitalized.  I worked full time, but found it was getting too much for me, so I now have Wednesdays off and it's made the world of difference.
Avatar universal
I accepted that I had COPD 10-11 years ago. I am pro-active in managing it, with my doctor. Have been on and off of oxygen a few times, after something traumatic. This time, however, after a knee replacement, I was still on it 7 months later. This made no sense to me, as I was riding a stationary bike 5 miles a day, for both knee and lungs. Then my little voice reminded me I was born allergic to dairy. They fed me goat milk as an infant because of bronchitis and croup. I have never drank milk, but I love cheese. My little voice said I had to give up cheese. Bread and cheese are my favorite foods. I had already given up wheat because it makes me hurt all over. So I quit eating cheese. Long story short, two weeks later I woke up one morning and did not need the oxygen. Haven't needed it since. I keep checking my oximeter, hardly able to believe it. Unless I get in a hurry it stays above 90. My quality of life has improved dramatically! Yes, I miss cow cheese. I can tolerate a little goat and sheep's milk cheeses. However, I do not miss dragging that tube around. Hallelujah!
Avatar universal
i dont see symptoms but,, i often cough intentionally because i want to release the pleghm stocked in my troat,, im a cigarrette user and 4 of my relatives died from emphysema,, do you think i may have emphysema too?
Avatar universal
Never give up, exercise and get stronger: don't accept any prognosis! The prognosis is for you with same conditions, so quit and exercise!!
Avatar universal
I am 60 years old and and the end of November 2012 discovered by chance that I had high blood pressure, 160/120. I immediately treated it. The caridiologist told me I have aortic regurgitation and dilatation of the aortic valve. Yesterday after a scan I was told I have emphysema. I have always been fit, am vegetarian, have never smoked but have terrible stress after being robbed.
Avatar universal
I'm female, a long term smoker & 53yrs. I have had very high hemoglobin level for several years (polycythemia vera) with symptoms of regular severe head aches, itchiness, red face, sore joints & foggy brain.  Had to give up full time work three yrs ago. (I was diagnosed with mild emphysema 1 yr ago without symptoms of coughing or shortness of breath). Having venesections to reduce chance of stroke, a bone marrow biopsy next week to correctly diagnose reason for high red blood cell count, probably from smoking.  Have stopped smoking a few times but keep going back. I've got a problem, like an alcoholic! I hate smoking, it stinks. The Champix tablets help me stop smoking for about 6 mths but can't get another course until next month. Just can't do it on my own.  Mad! I need tablets that make feel sick before I can stop smoking!
Avatar universal
I am 35 years of age I've been a smoker for 18 years. In the last few days I am short of breath an finding it hard to take in a deep breath I think I have emphysema
Avatar universal
I have emphysema and have been told the lining of my lungs has gotten thicker.
Have an Answer?
Didn't find the answer you were looking for?
Ask a question
Popular Resources
Find out what causes asthma, and how to take control of your symptoms.
Healing home remedies for common ailments
Tricks to help you quit for good.
Is your area one of the dirtiest-air cities in the nation?
For people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), the COVID-19 pandemic can be particularly challenging.
A list of national and international resources and hotlines to help connect you to needed health and medical services.