Asthma: Emphysema vs Asthma
In the past emphysema has been seen as a death sentence. Your doctor or specialist may have explained to you that this condition is progressive, and will eventually stop you from breathing at all. You may have been told that new drugs are becoming available all the time, and new research is happening.
If you are youngish, then you may have been told there is a chance for a lung transplant later. Some doctors will simply say to make the most of the rest of your life while you still can.
While this is pretty good advice to follow anyway, there are some really interesting other things to know about. There is a theory that smoking causes emphysema. There are literally thousands of people who have emphysema, but have never smoked ó ever. They have never been exposed to even passive in any dose; they have the same condition as a 'two-packs-a-day-for-thirty-years' smoker.
Other people have what scientists describe as alpha antitrypsin deficiency, which is a genetic code that produces less of an enzyme that is needed in your lungs than 'normal' people. The interesting thing is that in the vast majority of these cases, the emphysemic condition is not seen until later in life ó even though the genetic pattern that says there should be emphysema has been there since birth.
What is the missing factor that explains what is going on?
The Missing Factor
The missing factor is the depth of breathing of each person. The only difference between asthma and emphysema is where it occurs in your breathing system. Very simply put, asthma happens in the airpipes [called 'bronchi'], whereas emphysema occurs in the bulb-like sacs at the end of the airpipes called 'alveoli'. Asthma is restriction of airflow by either squeezing the airpipes with special muscles, or blocking it up with sticky mucus, or both. Emphysema is the clogging up of the alveoli at the end of the airpipes with mucus.
The restriction of breathing in both conditions has the same cause.
Your body is try to restrict the airflow to prevent further loss of carbon dioxide [CO2]. From other articles written on Asthma you will know that if you lose too much CO2, then your body will not work, and you will die. The restriction of your airflow in asthma and emphysema is simply your body's way of forcing you to stop losing so much CO2.
Smoking is a double whammy for emphysema. The deep breathing associated with smoking causes the loss of more CO2, which induces your mucus factories [special glands that produce mucus or 'phlegm'] to increase their output. Added to this is the effect of bringing foreign particles into your lungs. This also causes an increase in mucus production [to clean up the bits of tar and debris]. The effect is a huge increase in mucus and it is no wonder that alveoli [and bronchi] clog up.
An additional effect of bringing all of this cigarette muck into your lungs is to increase the chance of your lung cells mutating and giving you cancer. The other effect of smoking [while we are bashing this silly habit!] is that it introduces hot, dry air to your lungs. Your lungs are wet and sloppy and they function best this way. When they dry out or are heat affected they are easily damaged, and more likely to become cancerous or infected.
To conclude my tirade on smoking if you are addicted to nicotine, then find another way to get it into your body. If you must do this via your lungs then use a similar device to what marijuana or opium smokers use a pipe or 'bong'. This drags the smoke filled air through water which 'washes' it a little, and cools it a lot. The amount of gunk that gets into your lungs is decreased and you can actually see it in the foul smelling water that is left. Of course to use these devices you have to breathe very deeply, so you will still lose CO2, and still probably get emphysema but you may have a lower chance of getting cancer of the lungs, lips, mouth or throat.
If you must continue to smoke, then at least bear in mind the lessons contained in this article. You will be able to reduce the symptoms of emphysema if you follow this breathing model because you will be stopping one of the factors that produce the symptoms. The other will still exist, and you will continue to do damage until you stop.
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