While the damage to the lungs caused by emphysema cannot be reversed, many treatments can help manage the symptoms and improve a person’s quality of life. These treatments can ease the symptoms by improving the flow of air into the lungs and by preventing complications.
Treatment is tailored to how severely the emphysema is affecting a person's health and their ability to do things.
If you smoke, the most important treatment is to quit smoking. Even for people with advanced emphysema, quitting can help. If you smoke and would like help, call the Quitline on 13 78 48 and talk to your doctor.
Other treatments include:
- special exercises designed to improve breathing
- maintaining a balanced diet, getting enough rest and exercising regularly
- avoiding air pollution and other people’s smoke
- being vaccinated against the flu and pneumococcal pneumonia
- using medicines to open the airways and to prevent and treat infections
- in more severe cases, breathing oxygen from a portable cylinder to temporarily boost oxygen levels in the blood.
Very occasionally, surgery can be useful.
Last reviewed: November 2016