Emphysema is a condition in which damage has occurred to the alveoli or lung tissue. Emphysema is often referred to as COAD (Chronic Obstructive Airway Disease) or COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) The more severe the condition the more damage to the lungs that has occurred. The alveoli (or air sacs) of which there are over 300 million in each person, lose their tone and can no longer work efficiently. This results in a smaller surface area for the gas exchange to occur.
The typical symptoms of emphysema are breathlessness, noise or wheezy breathing, fatigue on activity, inability to exercise without severe breathlessness. This is due to the inefficient oxygen exchange. It is normally assumed that the damage to the lungs makes an improvement with the condition unlikely, but by learning to breathe correctly with Buteyko it is possible to significantly improve the oxygen exchange despite the existing damage.
Breathlessness, or shortness of breath, is a common symptom experienced by many people. People therefore often think they must not be breathing deeply enough; that somehow the tightness around our chest is restricting the breathing and making it too shallow…making us breathless.
Breathlessness is principally an outcome of poor oxygen exchange. Most people, understandably, assume that they require a greater volume of air to reach the lungs to bring more oxygen in. Paradoxically, the greater volume of air that is pushed in and out of the lungs the less oxygen will be available for use by our tissue cells. This is the Bohr Effect. By reducing breathing volumes to the physiologically normal of 4-5 litres per minute, the alveolar CO2 level is raised and thus results in a greater amount of oxygen being released from the blood to the cells.
Deep breathing does not deliver greater amounts of oxygen to our bodies, on the contrary, it delivers less. Deep breathing at rest results in dizziness, fatigue, anxiety, and eventually fainting. The Buteyko Institute Method program improves symptoms of breathlessness by normalising the volume of air breathed, maximising oxygen exchange.
People who attend the Buteyko course for Emphysema/ COAD/COPD typically experience a reduction in use of reliever medication, increased mobility, less breathlessness and a reduction in mucous and coughing.