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Emphysema - Know The Life Expectancy and Stages!

Dr. Nikhil Modi 90% (203 ratings)
MD, MBBS
Pulmonologist, Delhi  •  11 years experience
Emphysema - Know The Life Expectancy and Stages!

If you are facing difficulties in breathing, especially in the process of exhaling, you are suffering from emphysema. Emphysema is a condition in which the air sacs of the lungs are damaged and enlarged, causing breathlessness. It occurs as a result of several triggers, smoking being the most common one. Emphysema is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. People with this condition struggle to exhale, which implies that there is some obstruction in the air flow. This disease has no permanent cure but by quitting smoking, you can stop it from getting worse.

Stages
The progression and severity of emphysema occurs with the staging systems. The staging of the condition can help in developing a prognosis.

The Gold emphysema staging system
Gold is a major emphysema staging system created by a group known as the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease. The amount of air a patient can exhale forcefully in one second is determined during this stage. It is also referred to as the forced expiratory volume or FEV1.

The staging is as follows:

  • Stage 1: Mild emphysema (FEV1 greater than 80% of normal)
  • Stage 2: Moderate emphysema (FEV less than 80%, but more than 50% normal)
  • Stage 3: Severe emphysema (FEV lesser than 50%, but more than 30% normal)
  • Stage 4: Extremely severe emphysema. (FEV lesser than 30% of normal or lesser than 50% normal, with low levels of oxygen in the blood.

The BODE emphysema staging system
The condition affects several abilities. The BODE index, an acronym for BMI (body mass index), obstruction, dyspnea (breathlessness), exercise capacity (health index) is another staging system for emphysema in which the emphysema’s impact on several areas of life are measured. They include the following:

  1. Body mass index (B)
  2. Airflow limitation or obstruction (O), which is measured by pulmonary function tests
  3. Breathless or dyspnea (D), which is assessed thoroughly via a questionnaire
  4. Exercise capacity (E), which is measured to check how long a person with emphysema can walk in a span of six minutes

Life expectancy
The prognosis of emphysema is impossible to be determined in any person individually. The staging system helps to identify the severity of the condition, but the future cannot be predicted. Not many studies have been undertaken for the determination of the effects of emphysema on life expectancy. The best research that has been carried out included around 100 people, which is very less. The condition varies largely among people, even if they are in the same stage.

The statistics available on emphysema are not reliable enough for individuals who wish to know their life expectancy. It is considered that if a patient falls in a higher stage, his/her long-term life expectancy is less. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a Pulmonologist.

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