Emphysema is a lung disorder that is caused by damaged alveoli and the rupture of the inner walls of the air sacs in the lungs. This leads to extreme difficulty in breathing and can cause many severe health complications. Although this lung condition cannot be fully cured, there are some ways to relieve the symptoms and make breathing easier. Below is a quick look at the various treatment options for emphysema.


These drugs relax the muscles in the lungs and make the air passages wider to relieve the breathing difficulty. Bronchodilators come as inhalers, pills, and in liquid form, but for most people, the most effective among these is using an inhaler. There are two types of bronchodilators – anticholinergics and beta-agonists. Speaking with a doctor at a health clinic will help you find the right treatment method depending upon the severity of your condition.

PDE-4 Inhibitors

PDE-4 or phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors are a relatively new type of oral drugs used to treat emphysema. These are seen to be especially effective in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. PDE-4 drugs can be used with bronchodilator therapy as well in severe cases. Studies have found that using Roflumilast, in particular, can lead to fewer flare-ups in emphysema patients.

Steroids and Combination Medicines

Steroids are recommended to reduce the swelling and mucus buildup in the airways so that the patient can breathe normally. Steroids are also usually administered with an inhaler. Doctors advise using steroids with anticholinergic or beta-agonist bronchodilators. This makes the treatment more effective than using steroids alone. However, steroid usage for a long time can lead to some side effects like weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, weakened bones, etc.

Oxygen Therapy

This treatment method is recommended for patients who have severe emphysema. Generally, supplemental oxygen is administered in three ways – using an oxygen concentrator, a liquid system, or oxygen cylinders. Your doctor at a health clinic will prescribe how much oxygen you need as well as which method will be the best for you as per the severity of your condition.


There are many types of surgical procedures, which can help to treat the symptoms of emphysema. The most common procedure is lung volume reduction surgery or LVRS. Here, the damaged air sacs are removed from the lungs to help the patient breathe easier. However, if the alveoli have grown larger and are pressing against healthy parts of the lung, then a bullectomy may be recommended.

In the most severe cases of emphysema, a lung transplant may be recommended to the patient. There are some new treatments being studied for treating emphysema as well, which may eliminate the need for major surgery.

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    About the Author

    Dr. Ghassan M. Al-Jazayrly, MD

    A graduate of University of Aleppo Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Al-Jazayrly or, as he is colloquially known: Dr. AJ, is an oncologist and hematologist of a Complete Care Community Health Center (CCCHC) with more than 36 years of experience. In recent years, he’s been involved with a non profit organization known as Every Woman Counts (EWC) which provides free breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services to California’s underserved populations in order to eliminate health disparities for low-income individuals.

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