Subcutaneous emphysema is a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and used to be called a chronic obstructive lung disease (COLD). This means that it blocks blood flow and oxygen transport between through the lungs. Often, subcutaneous emphysema is caused by a long-term exposure to toxic chemicals or tobacco smoke.
Subcutaneous emphysema is caused by the lung tissues' loss of ability to be elastic, and also by the loss of structures supporting alveoli and their accompaniying capillaries that feed them blood. In subcutaneous emphysema, small airways collapse when the person exhales - the ability of the alveoli to collapse has increased.
Because of this, airflow is stopped, trapping air in the lungs and rendering a person unable to breathe. This also happens with other lung diseases. Some of the symptoms of subcutaneous emphyseam are shortness of breath, hyperventilation, and an expanded chest.
Mild subcutaneous emphysema are able to hold adequate blood oxygen levels by hyperventilating. However, sufferers of chronic bronchitis have cyanosis (inadequate oxygen) due to an almost normal ventilatory drive caused by decreased sensitivity to carbon dioxide secondary to chronic hypercapnia. But any COPD disease results in hypoxaemia (decreased blood partial pressure of oxygen) and hypercapnia (increased blood partial pressure of carbon dioxide).
Some symptoms of subcutaneous emphysema are pursed-lipped breathing, central cyanosis and finger clubbing. The chest has increased percussion notes, particularly just above the liver, both due to hyperinflation of the lungs.
The sounds of breathing may be lessened or exaggerated, depending, and in far advanced cases, edema results from fluid overfilling the tissues.There may be decreased breath sounds or an audible wheeze. The face has a ruddy complexion. In subcutaneous emphysema, there are metabolic flaps at the wrists from increased metabolism, and there will often be cigarette tar stains at the fingers.
Diagnosis of subcutaneous emphysema is done by lung function testing. Findings will often demonstrate a decrease in the volume of each alveole but an increase in the total lung capacity because the lung size itself has increased. X-rays, CT scans, bronchoscopies or blood tests to check pulse and blood pressure, just to rule out other conditions.Subcutaneous emphysema is irreversible and degenerative.
The most important step in slowing its progression is for the patient to keep away from cigarette smoke at all costs, along with avoiding exposure to other irritating substances. To optimize the quality of life, pulmonary rehabilitation can be very helpful and can also teach the patient to take an active role in treatment. Subcutaneous emphysema is often traumatizing to live with, but people with this condition can have a fulfiling lifestyle as long as their lungs continue to function properly without degenerating from the disease.