Emphysema is irreversible and degenerative.  The most important form of treatment is to slow down its progress.  The patient must stop smoking and avoid cigarette smoke and other lung irritants.  Patients may also take bronchodilators.  This is medication that causes air passages to open up and allow better air exchange.  Some patients may also use supplemental oxygen.

Surgery can be performed to treat emphysema.  Lung volume reduction surgery is effective if both upper lobes of the lungs are affected.  Removal of these lobes can allow for better expansion of the lower lungs.  For more advanced emphysema, lung transplant can be done, but it is risky.

Pulmonary rehabilitation is the most effective therapy.  Physical exercise, proper breathing technique and education improves quality of life and decreases hospitalization.