There are several medications that may be able to help treat your emphysema. Bronchodilators and inhaled steroids are often used to help you breathe easier. They work by relaxing your airways and helping to strengthen the muscles that allow you to breathe. Unfortunately, these medications aren't effective for everyone with emphysema. Other medications can be used to help prevent further complications. For example, inoculations against the flu and pneumonia will help prevent you from developing either of these conditions, both of which can make your emphysema much worse. Antibiotics work similarly by treating bacterial infections that may also cause complications. People suffering from both gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and emphysema may find some relief from using medications to treat their GERD.
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Honor Society of Nursing (STTI) answered
Bronchodilators: These drugs can help relieve coughing, shortness of breath and trouble breathing by opening constricted airways, but they are not as effective in treating emphysema as they are in treating asthma. Drugs that dilate constricted airways (beta-agonists) include albuterol (Ventolin®, Proventil®), metaproterenol (Alupent®), terbutaline (Brethine®), theophylline (Theo-Dur® or Slo-bid®, and perbuterol (Maxair®). They may be used to decrease acute symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath (dyspnea) that happen quickly.
Leukotriene modifiers: Leukotriene modifiers such as zafirlukast (Accolate®) or montelukast (Singulair®) are a new type of long-term control medication. They help prevent airway inflammation and swelling, as well as decrease the amount of mucus in the lungs.
Supplemental oxygen: If severe emphysema with low blood oxygen levels is present, using oxygen at home may provide some relief. Various forms of oxygen are available as well as different devices to deliver them to the lungs. A doctor will help with setting up oxygen for home use.
Surgery: In a procedure called lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS), surgeons remove small wedges of damaged lung tissue. Although it may seem inappropriate to remove lung tissue in shortness of breath, the extra space that is created in the chest cavity after removing some of the lung appears to help the remaining lung tissue and diaphragm work more efficiently. For those who are helped by this surgery, improvement is the greatest the first six months after the procedure. After that, lung function gradually declined. People may begin to have more difficulty breathing, and performance in the pulmonary function tests, such as spirometry, may decrease. By the two-year mark, the lung function in many people is about the same as it was before surgery.
Pulmonary rehabilitation program: A key part of treatment involves a pulmonary rehabilitation program, which combines education, exercise training and behavioral intervention to help restore the individual with emphysema to the highest possible level of independent living.
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