What Are Subcutaneous Emphysema, Bullous Emphysema, and Paraseptal Emphysema?

Subcutaneous Emphysema: Before giving you a brief of all the above terms, we would like to let you know about the term Emphysema first. It's because it is crucial to know it before getting understand other terms.

subcutaneous emphysema

Please note that we are not her to give you an idea about the medical ailment, we are just a mere source of information to help you understand of such ailments in a better way.


What is Emphysema?

When we talk about the term emphysema, it means a progressive lung condition which is generally characterized with the damage to air sacs (alveoli) of your lungs.

In addition to this, the above condition leads to the slow destruction of lung tissue as well. Now, as this medical ailment progresses, the person may find it quite difficult to breathe and also to engage his or her daily or routine activities.

Now, there can be a plethora of subtypes of emphysema which are known by the terms like paraseptal emphysema, bullous emphysema and subcutaneous emphysema. Before moving ahead, let’s discuss what is meant by subcutaneous emphysema. Well, it can occur mainly when air or gas is trapped underneath the skin.

The above can also reflect a type of complication of COPD or it can also happen due to physical trauma to the lungs.

Bullous emphysema i another condition comprised with the formation of an air pocket or bulla. The above generally takes up space in the chest cavity and disrupting the normal functioning of lungs. It's also known by another term called vanishing lung syndrome.

In the same way, Paraseptal emphysema can occur when the air sacs of lungs get inflamed or damaged in a way. It may sometime lead to another complication of bullous emphysema.

As you are now already familiar with the above terms related to subcutaneous emphysema, it's time to learn more about subcutaneous emphysema and also how it gets stacked up against paraseptal and bullous emphysema.


What is subcutaneous emphysema?

Subcutaneous emphysema is basically a kind of lung condition where air or gas gets under the skin tissue. In most cases, it's seen that it happens in the tissue of chest or neck wall, the above condition may also develop in some other body parts as well. When it happens, a person can see smooth bulging on the skin.

Please note that subcutaneous emphysema is a rare condition which sometimes comes up after surgery of the thorax. Still, there are many other factors that often contribute to the formation of subcutaneous emphysema including blunt trauma or collapsed lung.


What are the symptoms?

There are various symptoms of subcutaneous emphysema that actually differ than other types of emphysema. They may include:

  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the chest and neck
  • Neck pain
  • Sore throat

What Causes Subcutaneous Emphysema & Who's At Risk?

Do you know that unlike other emphysema forms, subcutaneous emphysema is not caused due to smoking?  Some of the known causes include:

  • Ruptured esophagus or bronchial tube
  • Facial bone fracture
  • Collapsed lung accompanied by a rib fracture
  • Medical procedures, like thoracic surgery, endoscopy, and bronchoscopy


A person can also be at risk of developing subcutaneous emphysema if he has the following:


  • Esophagus damaged by corrosives or chemical burns
  • Breathed in cocaine dust
  • Medical conditions like forceful vomiting or whooping cough
  • Injuries like gunshot wound, stabbing or blunt trauma


How is Subcutaneous Emphysema Diagnosed & Treated?

In case, you are experiencing symptoms of subcutaneous emphysema in any way, you are required to consult your doctor.

In the routine checkup, your doctor will perform a thorough check up and assess all your symptoms. Before your doctor perform some additional testing, he may also touch your skin to mainly check if it produces any abnormal crackling sound. This sound generally results due to gas bubbles being pressed through the tissues.

In addition to the above tests, the doctor may also go ahead for some other tests like X-ray of abdomen or chest not only to look for air bubbles but also to assess the functioning of lungs.

The treatment will entirely depend by looking at what exactly has caused the disease to occur. You may get hold of a supplemental oxygen tank so as to ease any sort of problems like shortness of breath. In severe cases, a lung transplant becomes necessary.


What is Bullous Emphysema?

Bullous emphysema mainly happens when a number of giant bullae start developing in the lungs. These are basically baloon like cavities or air sacs having air or fluid.

These tend to grow on the upper side of lungs (upper lobes). they are generally seen taking one third of side of the chest. In most cases, lung function gets affected if these bullae start getting ruptured or inflamed.

Doctors often conduct dubbed bullous emphysema mainly because these giant air sacs cause the lungs as if they are disappearing.


What Are the Symptoms?

Please note that bullous emphysema symptoms are quite similar to some other types of emphysema like:

  • Changes of nails.
  • Fatigue, nausea, oss of appetite
  • Chronic coughing with phlegm production
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain


Bullous emphysema can also lead to certain complications including:

  • Lung cancer
  • Collapsed lung
  • Infection


What Causes Bullous Emphysema & Who's At Risk?

Please note that the primary cause of bullous emphysema is none other than cigarette smoking. Some studies done in this regard also suggest that the use of excess marijuana can also become the reason to developing bullous emphysema.

In the same way, a person can also be at risk of develoing bullous emphysema because of some genetic disorders like:

  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • Marfan syndrome
  • Alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency


How's Bullous Emphysema Diagnosed & Treated?

First and the foremost, if you are experiencing symptoms of Bullous Emphysema, you need to consult your doctor.

In the routine checkup, your doctor will perform a thorough check up and assess all your symptoms. Before your doctor perform some additional testing, he may also touch your skin to mainly check if it produces any abnormal crackling sound. This sound generally results due to gas bubbles being pressed through the tissues.

In order to make a diagnosis, your doctor may perform a physical test to assess your symptoms. He may also test the capacity and the functioning of your lungs through a spirometer. He will also use an oximeter to measure the levels of oxygen in your blood.

In the same way, he may also recommend a chest X-ray to track the presence of enlarged air sacs.

Unlike other forms of emphysema, bullous emphysema is the one which can be treated by following different types of inhalers. And so, he can help alleviate the issue of shortness of breath. There are cases when he may recommend supplemental oxygen therapy.

In the same way, a steroid inhaler is also recommended. In addition to this, the doctor may also give you some antibiotics to subside any sort of infection and inflammation.

In severe cases, a lung transplant is the last option.


What's Paraseptal Emphysema?

Unlike other types of emphysemas, Paraseptal emphysema is characterized with some other symptoms like swelling and tissue damage to the alveoli. Please note that alveoli are tiny air sacs of lungs that allow oxygen and carbon dioxide to flow through your airways.

The above type of emphysema most commonly happens on the back side of the lung. Due to this, the chances are there for paraseptal emphysema to move or progress into bullous emphysema.


What are the symptoms?

Take a look at the symptoms of paraseptal emphysema:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue

There are some rare cases where the condition of paraseptal emphysema results in the collapse of lung.


What Causes Paraseptal Emphysema & Who's At Risk?

Just like some other forms of emphysema, the main cause of paraseptal emphysema is none other than cigarette smoking.

The above condition is also closely related to pulmonary fibrosis including some other kinds of interstitial lung abnormalities. Now, all the above types of abnormalities generally define by progressive scarring of the lung tissue.

A person can be at more risk of developing bullous emphysema if he has the below mentioned genetic disorders:

  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • Marfan syndrome
  • Alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency


How's Paraseptal Emphysema Diagnosed & Treated?

There are cases when the symptoms paraseptal emphysema go unnoticed. And sue to this; the above condition becomes difficult to get treated.

At the time of your appointment with your doctor, he will check both your medical history and assess your symptoms. He may also ask for a chest x-ray as well.

Please note that Paraseptal emphysema is treated just like the other forms of emphysema.

Your doctor may also prescribe a non-steroid or steroid inhaler mainly to help improve your breathing.

There are cases when your doctor may recommend some supplemental oxygen therapy. And in some severe cases, lung transplant becomes the necessity.


Common Outlook for People With Emphysema

Please note that there is no proper cure for any type of emphysema. But the condition can be manageable to some extent. For example, if you are diagnosed with emphysema, you will be asked to make some changes to your lifestyle  like to quit smoking.

The projected life expectancy in such cases will largely depend on individual diagnosis. So, you need to talk to your doctor in this regard to get the best treatment available.


How to Prevent Emphysema?

Rather than treatment, Emphysema is often preventable. There are cases where lifestyle factors determine its likelihood. Now, to reduce the above complication, simply avoid

  • Airborne toxins like charcoal dust
  • Use of cocaine
  • Smoking

In case, emphysema runs in your family, consult your doctor to determine it using several tests so as to determine the genetic risk of developing the disease.

In cases of subcutaneous emphysema, you must protect yourself from avoidable injuries. Unlike the subcutaneous emphysema, Bullous and paraseptal emphysema are not reported to be caused by physical trauma.

If you are undergoing some medical procedure, it's your responsibility to speak with your doctor regarding the chances of getting this rare disease.


 Also Read: COVID-19 Impact On New Mesothelioma Cases In Italy




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