What kinds of medication can treat emphysema?

Unfortunately, the damage done to your lungs due to emphysema is irreversible. However, you can manage your symptoms and slow the progression of your emphysema with various prescription medications. Talk to your doctor about the prescription medication that is best for you given your overall health, other pre-existing conditions and the severity of your emphysema. On a side note, you may want to consider taking nicotine replacement medication or smoking cessation medication, such as bupropion hydrochloride or varenicline, to help you quit smoking. Quitting smoking will greatly improve your prognosis and life expectancy.

Bronchodilators can help relieve common symptoms associated with emphysema such as shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing. Bronchodilators such as ipratropium, salmeterol, and formoterol open up your constricted airways. Keep in mind, though, bronchodilators do a much better job at relieving symptoms associated with asthma and chronic bronchitis than they do at relieving emphysema-related symptoms. Inhaled steroids, or corticosteroids, can also help relieve symptoms associated with emphysema, including inflammation of the lungs. But, prolonged use of corticosteroids increases your risk of osteoporosis, high blood pressure, cataracts and diabetes. You may require oral or intravenous steroids if you experience emphysema flare-up.


You are at increased risk of developing a lung infection such as bronchitis and pneumonia when you have emphysema. Lung infections can worsen your emphysema-related symptoms. Your doctor will likely prescribe oral antibiotics if this complication occurs. Finally, your doctor may prescribe home oxygen therapy to help improve your breathing. Some people use home oxygen therapy when their breathing becomes labored or difficult. Other people use supplemental oxygen continuously throughout the day.