The treatment for emphysema is the same as many of the treatments for COPD because emphysema is a type of COPD, according to Mayo Clinic. The other major type of COPD, chronic bronchitis, requires many the same treatments, although surgery is not used for it, says WebMD.
The first step in treating either type of COPD is quitting smoking and avoiding other lung irritants, according to National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Medications frequently used include bronchodilators and, in more severe cases, inhaled steroids. The bronchodilators relax the muscles around airways, while steroids reduce inflammation in the tissues around the airways. Flu vaccines and vaccines for pneumonia-causing bacteria are usually administered since these diseases are especially dangerous for people with any type of COPD.
Pulmonary rehabilitation and oxygen therapy are common for both types of COPD, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says. Pulmonary rehabilitation tends to include exercises and learning disease management techniques. Surgery is used for emphysema patients when other treatment measures fail and includes removing either cavities that develop in the lungs or damaged portions of lung. In very severe cases, a patient undergoes a lung transplant. This can improve symptoms a great deal but also carries significant risks and can lead to death if the body rejects the new lung.