Emphysema is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) characterised by limited airflow into and out of the lungs. The air sacs at the ends of the lungs are gradually destroyed and oxygen is unable to reach the bloodstream. Breathing is difficult and slowly the body begins to deteriorate due to lack of air.
Evaluating the Condition
When a pulmonary function test is performed during diagnosis, the measurements are stated as forced vital capacity (FVC), which is the amount of air forced through your lungs in a single breath as well as the forced expiratory volume over one second (FEV1) and the peak flow (PF), which is the fastest you can force the air out. The ratios of these variants are taken and the results are given a percentage that helps to determine the stage of COPD.
Symptoms of Advanced Stage Four Emphysema
Symptoms in the advanced (three and four) stages of emphysema include tiring quickly, being unable to complete normal tasks without tiring, being unable to breathe well enough to exercise normally, breathing that worsens when you have a cold, lips or fingernails that are blue or grey, coughing up greenish or yellow sputum on a regular basis, becoming short of breath tying your shoes, weight loss and lack of tolerance for activity.
Changes in Stage Four
Stage four emphysema, the most advanced level, is characterised by a worsening of the above symptoms. In most cases, patients in stage four require oxygen treatment, which means they are at chronic respiratory failure and have low levels of oxygen in their blood.
Life Expectancy in Stage Four
Prognosis of emphysema is traditionally made on the basis of the FEV1. If the FEV1 is less than 35 per cent, emphysema is very severe and it is often predicted that these patients will survive less than four years. Other factors that predict prognosis include the patient's weight (less if lower weight), the distance walked in six minutes, and the degree of shortness of breath with activities.
Treatment of Emphysema
While there is no cure for emphysema and no way of treating it in the advanced stages, smoking cessation can keep it from becoming worse. Oxygen therapy helps improve chances of survival if the patient's oxygen levels are low. Pulmonary rehabilitation can improve tolerance to activity and improve the quality of life for emphysema patients.