Emphysema is a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, which occurs when there is damage to the alveoili air sacs in the lungs, MedlinePlus says 12. The air sacs are usually deformed and do not inflate like those in healthy lungs. This causes a severe depletion in oxygen intake and causes increasingly difficulties breathing accompanied by a chronic cough. The most common cause of this chronic respiratory disease is cigarette smoking in which the carcinogen toxicity causes the sacs to lose shape. General treatments include inhalers, oxygen and even surgery. There are specific symptoms that can indicate the presence of emphysema both prior or during the disease 2.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
The most common indication of emphysema is a persistent chest pain, which can appear in the advanced stages of emphysema, according to Drugs.com 2. It often accompanies an overall decrease in normal lung function in which chronic smoker’s cough, shortness of breath during normal activity and wheezing occurs. Chest pain can indicate an associated heart condition in response to emphysema as well 2. This occurs due to the hearts increased activity of supplying oxygen to vital organs. It must obtain functional amounts of oxygen to keep the body oxygenated despite the lowered amounts of oxygen intake. This is often obvious when chest pain accompanies blood pressure problems and swelling of the ankles, legs or abdomen.
- The most common indication of emphysema is a persistent chest pain, which can appear in the advanced stages of emphysema, according to Drugs.com 2.
- This occurs due to the hearts increased activity of supplying oxygen to vital organs.
Total Body Pain
COPD: End-of-Life Symptoms
Emphysema causes chronic dyspnea in which the process of breathing is exceedingly uncomfortable and unpleasant 2. Pain in the chest usually occurs first before a total body pain emerges. The American Family Physician states that over two thirds of patients with emphysema and COPD suffer from this condition with nearly 25 percent experiencing profound total body pain 2. Caring for individuals displaying this type of pain is extremely difficult due to the functional limitations of the patients and the anxieties of fighting for air. The eclipsing pain is often secondary to the frequent breathing exacerbations, which require immediate medical intervention.
In some cases, treatment for emphysema may cause secondary pain in areas of the body 2. Theophylline and other methylxanthines, for example, can cause severe abdominal pain that can accompany a variety of other side effects such as:
- irregular heartbeat
- the New York Times Health Guide says 4
Since these medications are inhalation bronchodilators, the actual effect depends on the levels of the medication in the blood, which may not always be in high proportions due to its regional application. However, many physicians will use these medications as a last resort as the modest benefits do not always outweigh the risks.
COPD: End-of-Life Symptoms
Mucus-Producing Lung Diseases
Confusion & End Stage of COPD
Does Tidal Volume Increase With Exercise?
What Are the Different Stages of COPD?
Generic Names of Percocet
Causes of High Carbon Dioxide in the Blood
Arterial Blood Gases in COPD
How Does a Spirometer Work?
- MedlinePlus: Emphysema
- Drugs.com: Emphysema
- American Family Physician: COPD - Management of Acute Exacerbations and Chronic Stable Disease
- New York Times Health Guide: Emphysema Medication
- Cleveland Clinic. Emphysema. Updated August 7, 2019.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Emphysema. Updated February 26, 2020.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Cyanosis of the nail bed. Updated May 16, 2019.
- Yohannes AM, Alexopoulos GS. Depression and anxiety in patients with COPD. Eur Respir Rev. 2014;23(133):345–349. doi:10.1183/09059180.00007813
- Quint J. The relationship between COPD and cardiovascular disease. Tanaffos. 2017;16(Suppl 1):S16–S17.
- Seeger W, Adir Y, Barberà JA, et al. Pulmonary hypertension in chronic lung diseases. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2013;62(25 Suppl):D109-16. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2013.10.036
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Pulmonary hypertension. Updated August 30, 2019.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Respiratory failure. Updated October 18, 2019.
- Bare, Brenda G. & Smeltzer, Suzanne C. Brunner and Suddarth's Textbook of Medical-Surgical Nursing (8th Edition). Philidelphia, PA: Lippincott-Raven Publishers.
Skyler White is an avid writer and anthropologist who has written for numerous publications. As a writing professional since 2005, White's areas of interests include lifestyle, business, medicine, forensics, animals and green living. She has a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from San Francisco State University and a Master of Science in forensic science from Pace University.