Monday, September 10, 2018

PT Pathologies: Emphysema

Frequently diagnosed alongside chronic bronchitis, Emphysema is a Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease that causes destruction of the alveolar walls and detrimentally impacts the ability to breath oxygen and exchange that internally along the respiratory membrane in order for the cells of the body to utilize oxygen to remain vitally active.  Decreasing amounts of gas exchange result in difficult expiration and unproductive breathing.  Emphysema is progressive and cannot be reversed, although its detrimental effects can be slowed down.

A lack of air and blood flow negatively impacts the lungs affected by emphysema.  Due to the lack of air exchange, the bronchioles can collapse, leading to necrosis and destruction of the delicate alveoli (air sacs responsible for containing the oxygen needed for exchange along the respiratory membrane).  It is this exchange that allows for the transport of oxygen to tissues throughout the rest of the body.  Chronic smoking, which is the leading cause of Emphysema, also causes the overproduction of enzymes within the lungs that generally helps to keep the lung tissue healthy.  Yet this overproduction, along with the existence of too much mucus in the lungs as a result of degraded cilia, destroys healthy tissue.  The lack of cilia to help flush out unhealthy particulate matter as well as tar from cigarettes contributes to an environment within the lungs that has too much mucus.  This moist environment is ideal for the growth of bacteria, which leads to chronic infections like bronchitis.

With the alveoli degraded and the environment within the lungs, people with COPD are not able to breathe easily.  Thankfully, pulmonary therapy with the assistance of physical therapists and respiratory therapists, is able to help people struggling with Emphysema.  Exercises that utilize the muscles of inspiration and expiration are frequently incorporated into the patient's workout regimen.  Upper and lower body exercises that help the body to utilize oxygen more effectively are also frequently employed.  This regimen can take time in order for the patient to work up the endurance needed for benefits to emerge.

Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are not reversible conditions, but the quality of life of an individual suffering from these diseases can be improved with good pulmonary rehabilitation and better lifestyle habits.  Quitting smoking is paramount and taking good care of one's body with proper rest and nutrition is essential.  Incorporating daily exercise and breathing with resistive equipment to help train the muscles of inspiration and expiration are also helpful methods.

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