Shortness of breath is the main symptom of emphysema, which is a chronic and progressive lung disease. The lungs’ air sacs, which are called alveoli, rupture – and thus cannot exchange as much oxygen with the blood as necessary. This also compromises the lungs’ ability to eliminate carbon dioxide from the blood and exhale it out of the body.
Because the lungs of someone with emphysema are unable to expel air, gases are trapped in the air sacs. The capillaries are therefore impacted, and blood cannot flow easily through the lungs to receive oxygen. Elasticity dissipates, so the lungs lose their ability to properly stretch and contract, and air is trapped in the tiny air sacs.
Together, chronic bronchitis and emphysema comprise chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Some symptoms are similar to both, but emphysema actually alters the lungs’ anatomy as the tissue is continually destroyed. Let’s talk about how emphysema is diagnosed and how it can be treated to improve the patient’s quality of life.
How Does a Doctor Diagnose Emphysema?
If you can barely climb stairs or walk for short distances without losing your breath, then it is time to be evaluated by a lung doctor. The physician will discuss your medical history, lifestyle, and symptoms, and they will then conduct a physical exam.
An image of the chest will assist in determining whether your symptoms are connected to emphysema or to something else, so the doctor may order an X-ray. The X-ray may rule out the disease, but it may also find that other underlying conditions are present.
A CT scan may also be performed in combination with an X-ray in order to determine the presence of emphysema. This will also be performed if your doctor considers you a candidate for lung surgery.
The doctor may conduct a test that measures your lung function in order to diagnose your condition as emphysema or a different lung disorder. The device is called a spirometer, and it measures the amount of air that you are able to breathe out in one breath (forced vital capacity).
Your blood can also be analyzed for its oxygen content and to determine whether you have an overabundance of carbon dioxide, which would indicate that your lungs are not expelling the carbon dioxide efficiently. This is an indicator of emphysema and can help your doctor diagnose your condition.
Lung Doctors in Greater Fort Worth, Texas
Here at Lung & Sleep Specialists of North Texas, our doctors take a whole-person approach to emphysema – seeking alternative, effective treatments. If your emphysema is triggered by allergens, such as smoke and dust, then a natural antihistamine may be the best treatment.
To determine whether your symptoms are related to emphysema, or to find out about what treatment method is right for you, schedule an appointment with one of our lung specialists. Our medical providers will perform a personalized evaluation of your lung function and develop a diagnosis in order to provide the right treatment plan for you.
Contact our friendly staff today by calling us at (817) 594-9993 or by filling out our online appointment request form now. We look forward to serving you.