According to the Asthma Society of Canada, about 750,000 Canadians have COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a disorder that is predicted to become the third-leading cause of death worldwide by 2020. One of the most common COPDs include emphysema, a serious and chronic lung disease, most often caused by smoking. If you or someone you love suffers from emphysema, it is important to understand the disorder.
What is Emphysema?
Emphysema is a lung disease which occurs when the air sacs of your lungs are slowly destroyed, making it increasingly difficult to breathe. Some common symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Barrel-shaped chest
- Unintentional weight loss
- Discoloring of the fingernails
If you believe that you or someone you know may be suffering from emphysema, see your physician immediately. Your doctor may run several tests, including performing a physical, chest x-rays, blood tests, and a spirometry (a test that measures the amount of air you can blow from your lungs).
Facts about Emphysema
Despite touching upon so many lives here in Canada, emphysema is still unknown to much of the public and is surrounded by myth. Here are some facts which can help patients and their families better understand their condition:
- Emphysema is not always caused by smoking. Although smoking is the leading cause of emphysema, there are several other ways one could contract the disease. Some people are born with a rare genetic disorder known as Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. People with this disorder are missing an enzyme that protects their lungs, making them very prone to a number of lung diseases, including emphysema. Other people may develop the disease from being around highly polluted air—this can include air from second-hand smoking.
- There is no cure for emphysema. However, it is possible to decelerate the speed of symptoms and manage the disease. Some treatments can include quitting smoking, taking certain medications, and increased exorcise.
- Emphysema is a progressive disease. This means the disease will worsen over time. Emphysema can also lead to other chronic and debilitating conditions such as a collapsed lung, heart problems, and giant bullae (large holes in the lung or lungs).
Assistance and Treatment for Emphysema
Although there is no cure for emphysema, there are many associations and groups available to provide emotional and financial support for those living in Canada with the disease. Among those groups are:
- The Canadian Lung Association: The CLA is a non-profit, charity-based organization working to bring emotional support and awareness to those living with lung diseases. Their goals are to prevent lung diseases and to help those living with them learn to manage their condition.
- Canadian Disability Tax Credit: Emphysema patients and their caregivers may qualify for disability tax credit. Living with emphysema can be a very costly disease, and the Canadian federal government is here to help. If you, or someone in your care, suffers from emphysema, you may want to file a disability tax credit form to see if you are eligible for a certificate which would partially reimburse you for expenses related to the disease. If you live in the Ontario area, then you may also be eligible for Ontario disability tax credit. Also, if you are the parent of a child with emphysema, you may be eligible for child disability tax credit, and should fill out the appropriate forms to seek financial revenue.
Remember, if you or someone you love if suffering from emphysema, you are not alone. It is highly recommended that you research your disease further to gain full insight into your rights and aid.
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