If your doctor has recently diagnosed you with emphysema, you may be feeling overwhelmed. This is a serious condition, and it impacts every aspect of your life, from the quality of your sleep to your ability to partake in the activities you love. By learning a bit more about your treatment options, however, you can calm your concerns and be better equipped to face this condition with determination and a positive mindset. Depending on the severity of your emphysema, your doctor may recommend one or more of these treatment options:

Pulmonary Rehabilitation

Your quality of life will greatly improve if you're able to strengthen your lungs and reduce your breathlessness. This can be achieved through pulmonary rehabilitation therapy. Your respiratory therapist will work with you to perform a variety of exercises to improve your lung capacity and breathing. He or she will also show you techniques you can use to improve your breathing when you're feeling particularly out of breath. After several weeks or months of pulmonary rehab, you should be able to start participating in more of the activities you love, as well as handling everyday tasks with less struggle.

Pulmonary rehab is often performed on an out-patient basis at a hospital or medical center. However, if your emphysema symptoms make it hard for you to leave home and travel to appointments, a respiratory home care therapist may be sent to your home.

Supplemental Oxygen

If your emphysema is severe, you may not be maintaining healthy blood levels of oxygen. This can leave you feeling weak and out of breath. Supplemental oxygen, which is administered through a little tube that sits in your nostrils, can help greatly. You may only need to be on oxygen initially while you work through the initial stages of respiratory therapy, or you may need to be on it long-term. Some patients use it consistently when at home, while others only need supplemental oxygen when they exercise.

Your doctor or respiratory therapist will evaluate your need for oxygen and give you detailed instructions as to when and how to use it. If you need oxygen, you'll likely be given a portable oxygen tank that is mounted on wheels so that you can take it with you as you move through your home.

Lung Volume Reduction Surgery

If your emphysema is very severe or does not respond well to respiratory therapy, your doctor may recommend lung reduction surgery. In this procedure, the diseased lung tissue is removed, which allows the healthy lung tissue more room to expand, allowing you to breathe more effectively. In order to be a good candidate for lung volume reduction surgery, you must have stopped smoking at least 4 months prior. The procedure is done under general anesthesia, and potential complications include pneumonia, heart attack, and stroke. However, most patients experience greatly improved lung function and a decreased need for supplemental oxygen as a result.

Lifestyle Changes

Regardless of the severity of your emphysema, your doctor is likely to recommend a number of lifestyle changes to help ease your symptoms and keep the condition from getting worse:

  • Quitting smoking: If you don't want your lung function to keep deteriorating, you absolutely have to quit. Your doctor can tell you about support groups in the area; many patients find these very helpful.
  • Avoiding other respiratory irritants: You may need to give up hobbies that involve dust or fumes that irritate the respiratory tract.
  • Avoiding crowds: It's important to protect yourself from colds and the flu. Thus, you'll be advised to stay out of big crowds and to use hand sanitizer often when you do go out.

Emphysema certainly makes life difficult. However, there are plenty of treatments that can reduce the severity of your symptoms. Once you begin respiratory therapy, you'll notice a vast improvement. Talk to your doctor about the other treatments on this list and whether they're right for you.