Treatment for all stages of emphysema involves management of symptoms, especially breathing difficulties, according to WebMD. Common medications for this condition include bronchodilators to open the airways and corticosteroids to reduce inflammation. In the later stages of emphysema, patients may require oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation or surgery to remove the damaged portions of the lungs. In some cases, the patient may undergo a lung transplant; however, this procedure carries its own risk of serious medical problems.
There is no cure for emphysema, so treatment focuses on symptom reduction and preservation of lung function, explains WebMD. The most common cause of emphysema is smoking, and smoking cessation helps significantly in slowing down the progression of the disease, according to eMedicineHealth. In the early stages of the disease, bronchodilating medications may be enough to control shortness of breath, while corticosteroids and antibiotics help reduce the frequency of hospitalization. Some patients may require supplemental oxygen in order to engage in normal activities of daily living.
As the disease progresses to the more advanced stages, patients may benefit from surgery, says eMedicineHealth. The removal of damaged lung tissue can help improve overall lung function, and some patients experience years of improved quality of life following surgery. In the most severe cases of emphysema, lung transplantation is an option, but not all patients qualify for this and the supply of available organs is limited.