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Emphysema Prognosis

Emphysema Life Expectancy

While an actual prognosis for emphysema patients is impossible to determine accurately, there are two systems in place that attempt to estimate the life expectancy of emphysema patients. These two systems divide the disease progression into stages in different ways so it is important to look at both when deciding where you are in your emphysema disease progression.

Neither of these systems for staging emphysema patients takes into account how the patient feels physically or mentally which allows for a wide range of outcomes with regards to the emphysema patient's prognosis.

Even when it is determined that two people are in the same stage, they can have very different life expectancies. This means, in short, that the available statistics for determining the life expectancy for emphysema patients is, at best, unreliable.

With this in mind, it is obvious that the higher the stage the emphysema patient is in, the shorter their life expectancy.

According to WebMD,

"The GOLD and BODE emphysema staging systems provide slightly different information, summarized as follows:

  • More than 80% of people with mild emphysema are alive after four years.
  • 60% to 70% of people with moderate emphysema are alive after four years.
  • Among people with severe emphysema (FEV1< 35% normal), about 50% are alive after four years.
  • People with the worst possible emphysema symptoms (such as inability to walk through the house and severe weight loss) have the shortest emphysema life expectancy.

Remember that emphysema life expectancy varies widely, even between people with the same pulmonary function tests and BODE index scores. Even with the most severe emphysema, the odds of surviving one year are higher than 90%. Your primary doctor or pulmonologist can provide more detailed information.

By far, the most important determinant of emphysema prognosis and emphysema life expectancy is whether someone continues smoking. Quitting smoking is the single most important treatment to improve emphysema life expectancy."

My Mother's Experience

My mother fell into a deep depression after the spirometry test determined that she had the lungs of an 111 year old. After returning from the doctor she told me, "I can't believe I did this to myself." It was not until later that I realized how much the medications were contributing to her deterioration.

The prescribed medications for emphysema only provided temporary relief for emphysema symptoms anyway. As soon as the effects of the drug wore off, she was right back to square one with no improvement in her condition.

The biggest question I had that was never adequately answered was,

"Why is my mother's emphysema getting worse so long after she quit smoking?"

No doctor could ever provide an answer. They would generally provide some medical and pharmaceutical rhetoric which oftentimes included the very rare genetic disorder, alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency. The thing they did not realize was that I had researched this disorder and knew how rare it was and that it did not suddenly materialize in 70 year old patients after 30 years of smoking cigarettes.

"I realized my mother's smoking had caused her emphysema but I also realized smoking was no longer in the picture and was not the cause of the disease progression!"

Something was growing or proliferating in her lungs causing them to distend and crowd her stomach resulting in smaller and smaller meals. When I persisted with my questions about the cause of the progression of emphysema, one doctor finally admitted to me,

"We don't know why emphysema progresses so long after smoking cessation. It's a mystery!"

Instead of giving up and throwing in the towel I realized that the medical and pharmaceutical industries could only offer temporary relief from emphysema symptoms and could not provide any true, lasting improvement for my mother.

The long and the short of it was that I was obviously asking the wrong people for solutions. This prompted 6500+ hours of research into alternative approaches for actually reversing emphysema and solving this big medical mystery!

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