Saturday, January 31, 2009


Emphysema is a common disease that can be prevented. According to some sources 95%of people suffering from emphysema are smokers, according to other sources it’s 98%. This numbers show that smoking is a single largest cause of this devastating disease. Inhalation of harmful chemicals and dust can probably count for the rest of the cases.

Lungs are made of little bubbles called alveoli. These alveoli are covered with small capillaries. When we inhale air into our lungs, alveoli are feeling up with air. This air is picked up by blood in the capillaries. Carbon dioxide is transferred from the blood and into the alveoli so we can exhale it. When emphysema strikes, these alveoli are starting to grow and blood vessels can no longer wrap around them. This decreases amount of oxygen that our body can get with every breath. The more the disease progresses the less oxygen we get.

Initial stages of emphysema are not too bad. There is usually enough oxygen to continue day to day life. Shortage of air will be noticed only during periods of increased activity. As this condition progresses, patient will need to take bronchodialaters which will allow more air to flow into the lungs. Supplemental oxygen might be needed if oral medications are no longer helping. At first having oxygen tank is something a person will need just in case, only when they are very active physically. With time oxygen will be needed more and more even when this person is sleeping.

The tricky part about oxygen is that flow of oxygen has to be regulated to be just enough to give the body enough air. Receiving too much oxygen can worsen the condition. People with emphysema are regulating breathing differently from the way people without emphysema do. Normally people react to the amount of carbon dioxide in blood. When there is too much carbon dioxide, body responds by breathing more. People with emphysema are reacting to the amount of oxygen instead. When there is not enough oxygen, body reacts by breathing more. Therefore when oxygen tank is sending more oxygen then is needed body gets lazy and stops trying to breathe as much as it normally would. It is usually recommended to set a tank to a certain amounts of liters per minute and keep it at that rate. It is not that simple though. Depending on activity and emotions body will require different amount of oxygen. So the setting should really be changed throughout the day. A person who is sitting watching TV will require less oxygen then when this same person is cooking.

Bronchodialators should be used with caution as it is a glucocorticosteroid medication. When this word is broken down, it is easy to understand exactly what this medication is. Gluco stands for glucose. This medication can increase your blood glucose level; therefore people with diabetes should be especially careful when taking this medication. This medication is also a steroid. Term bronchodialator is basically describing what this medication does, it dilates bronchi. When bronchi are dilated, more air can travel into the lung. The problem with this is that after a prolonged use body can get used to the extra help and will start slaking off. I wouldn’t recommend taking this medication unless you absolutely have to.