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Emphysema Symptoms: What They Are and How to Manage Them

10 Apr 2017
| Under Disease Education, Emphysema, Medical | Posted by | 8 Comments
Emphysema Symptoms: What They Are and How to Manage Them

For people living with emphysema, each person has a different set of challenges they must face. What makes these challenges unique to each person are factors such as what caused the disease, environmental conditions and overall health prior to diagnosis. But, one aspect which remains constant for many is which emphysema symptoms can be expected.

With your health in mind, let’s take a look at emphysema symptoms, what they are and how to manage them.

What is Emphysema?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 3.4 million Americans have been diagnosed with emphysema, as of 2014. Emphysema is an obstructive lung disease which gradually destroys the air sacs in the lungs. These air sacs are responsible for bringing oxygen to the bloodstream. This makes breathing become more difficult over time. Emphysema, along with chronic bronchitis, are part of a lung disease collective known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Emphysema Symptoms and How to Manage Them

Emphysema Symptoms: What They Are and How to Manage Them

There is a common set of emphysema symptoms, including persistent cough, shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness. Remember, if you are experiencing these symptoms for extended periods, contact your doctor immediately. Below is a breakdown of emphysema symptoms and how to better manage them.

Persistent Cough

Persistent cough, also known as a “smoker’s cough,” is a common symptom for those with emphysema. A smoker’s cough is known as a dry, hacking cough. Coughing is the body’s way of expelling harmful substances and foreign particles. Due to long-term damage from emphysema, the lungs get irritated, leading to the persistent cough.

One of the most common treatment options for a persistent cough is beta-agonists, also known as bronchodilators. Bronchodilators are inhalers designed to help open airways to allow more oxygen to enter the lungs.

Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath is the feeling that breathing requires far more effort than is normally required. This symptom normally occurs while exerting oneself, during emotional experiences or feeling stressed. Shortness of breath is also referred to as labored breathing or breathlessness.

Shortness of breath can be a frightening symptom because it can feel like you cannot get enough air. In addition to using the prescribed inhalers, there are several seated and standing positions which can help reduce the feeling of shortness of breath.


A common emphysema symptom is wheezing. Wheezing is characterized by an abnormal whistling noise while breathing. In fact, wheezing is the result of damage or the narrowing of the tree-like structures in the lungs, or bronchioles, as air passes through them. As the air travels through abnormal pathways, the air causes a whistling sound.

Try eating foods with anti-inflammatory properties, such as those rich with vitamin C. Vitamin C-enriched foods include tomatoes, leafy greens, berries and citrus fruit. Your doctor may also recommend that you take anti-inflammatory medications to reduce inflammation.

Chest Tightness

Chest tightness is a common feeling for those with chronic lung disease. Some of the common feelings associated with chest tightness include the feeling that the chest is being squeezed or crushed, the chest feeling stiff or pressure on the lungs keeping them from filling up. Often, chest tightness happens at the same time as wheezing or shortness of breath.

To help relieve the feeling of chest tightness try a relaxation technique, such as the belly breathing technique. The belly breathing technique, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, can be done sitting in a comfortable chair or on a bed.

Treatment Options for Emphysema Symptoms

Emphysema Symptoms: What They Are and How to Manage Them

As mentioned above, there are a number of ways to help relieve emphysema symptoms, ranging from diet and medication to breathing techniques. While those techniques help with symptoms, they don’t address emphysema at the source – the lungs.

Over the past few years, more and more emphysema patients have searched for options beyond medication and pulmonary rehabilitation. One treatment option showing promise is cellular therapy.
Here, at the Lung Institute, we use cells from the patient’s own body to help promote healing within the lungs and which may improve quality of life.

If you or someone you know is battling emphysema, chronic bronchitis, COPD, pulmonary fibrosis or interstitial lung disease, it may be time to consider the Lung Institute. For more information on cellular therapy, please contact us or call (800) 729-3065.


  1. Lung Institute

    10 months ago


    Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry to hear that you’re feeling tired and having back pain. It can be hard to stay positive when you feel tired and in pain every day. Making small change in your daily routine, such as healthy eating and staying active can help to improve energy levels. Before making any major dietary or exercise changes, it’s always a good idea to consult with your primary care physician.

    Many people with COPD have experienced an improvement in their quality of life after receiving cell therapy, and candidates in all stages may be eligible. To learn more, please call (855) 313-1149 to speak directly with a patient coordinator.


    Lung Institute

  2. bonnie cheek

    11 months ago

    i am in stage 4 and tired all the time and have back trouble to boot. what should i do

  3. Phoebe

    1 year ago

    Dear Dale,

    Thanks for your comment and question. Treatment cost varies depending on treatment type. To determine if you’re a candidate for treatment and which treatment option may be best for you, more medical information is needed. Feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149 to speak with our knowledgeable medical team over our secure phone line. Our medical team has a wealth of knowledge about cellular therapy, treatment options, candidacy and cost. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Best Regards,

    The Lung Institute


    1 year ago


  5. Phoebe

    1 year ago

    Dear Shirley,

    Thanks for your comment. Typically, doctors use stages to categorize chronic lung diseases, such as COPD and emphysema. Using a staging system helps doctors better understand the severity of someone’s pulmonary condition and helps them develop a treatment plan. Generally, people in stage 3 are in the severe stage of their lung condition. Often, in stage 3, people have significant lung function impairment, increased flare-ups and experience more breathlessness than they had in previous stages. Read more about stage 3 by clicking here. It’s important to remember that chronic lung diseases affect everyone differently and at varying rates of progression. So, the disease may progress slowly for some people and quickly for others. It’s also important to see your doctor regularly and talk about your treatment options. While there is no cure for chronic lung disease, there are treatment options available to help manage symptoms. We’re happy to answer your questions about cellular therapy for chronic lung disease, so feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149 to speak one-on-one with our dedicated medical team. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Best Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  6. Phoebe

    1 year ago

    Dear Harvey,

    Thanks for your comment, and we’re glad to hear you found our article helpful. Unfortunately, at this time, insurance and Medicare don’t cover treatment. However, we’re hopeful that treatment will be covered in the future. It’s important to keep in mind that it may take a while before insurance companies and Medicare decide to cover treatment. Keep checking-in with our blog to read more articles on a variety of topics to help people with lung disease breathe easier. We’re happy to answer your questions about cellular therapy for emphysema, COPD and other chronic lung diseases. Our dedicated medical staff has a wealth of knowledge about cellular therapy, treatment, candidacy and more, so feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Best Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  7. Shirley.

    1 year ago

    My Dr.told me that I am in stage 3 whatever. That is

  8. Harvey

    1 year ago

    I have got a lot of good information from this. I hope that I can benefit in the future but now I’m on SSI and my medical from what I’m being told here won’t cover me. Further investigation on my part is due. Thank you for all your information! Harvey

* Every patient is given a Patient Satisfaction Survey shortly after treatment. Responses to the 11-question survey are aggregated to determine patient satisfaction with the delivery of treatment.

^ Quality of Life Survey data measured the patient’s self-assessed quality of life and measurable quality of improvement at three months.

All claims made regarding the efficacy of Lung Institute's treatments as they pertain to pulmonary conditions are based solely on anecdotal support collected by Lung Institute. Individual conditions, treatment and outcomes may vary and are not necessarily indicative of future results. Testimonial participation is voluntary. Lung Institute does not pay for or script patient testimonials.

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Each patient is different. Results may vary.