The main symptoms of pulmonary emphysema are shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. But these signs are found in other pathologies and so it is not always easy to make the right diagnosis at the onset of symptoms.
In the case of pulmonary emphysema, respiratory discomfort is not transient. On the contrary, it only gets worse over time.
The typical profile of a patient with pulmonary emphysema would be a man in his fifties who would be out of breath more and more often, at the least effort.
Our man would not end up talking to his general practitioner who would see, by examining it, a morphological modification of his torso: the thorax "in barrel", distended. At percussion, the doctor hears hypersonority (the sound of emptiness).
He also finds in his patient, a faster breathing than normal, and a high, superficial breathing.
On auscultation, he can hear bronchial rales. It is also likely that the doctor then diagnosed chronic bronchitis, or more accurately COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
> Emphysema is always accompanied by COPD. In some cases, there is little emphysema and more COPD, in other cases it is the opposite, but both pathologies are associated, hence the diagnostic difficulty.
The diagnosis of pulmonary emphysema is not always easy to ask. If in doubt, the doctor will ask you to do a chest X-ray and a CT scan. The chest X-ray will show a distended chest.
An assay of alpha-1-antitrypsin may be required in the laboratory. This is a simple blood test.