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Emphysema Prognosis and Treatment Options

Emphysema Prognosis and Treatment Options

People living with emphysema often cope with difficult emphysema symptoms. These symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue and coughing among others. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis fall under the larger disease category of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Emphysema, chronic bronchitis and COPD affect people differently. For some people emphysema progresses quickly, and for others, it progresses slowly. Because emphysema affects people differently, it is often hard for people to know their exact emphysema prognosis. Here is the information you need to know about emphysema prognosis and treatment options.

What is Emphysema?

Emphysema damages the lungs’ tiny air sacs (alveoli). The alveoli bring oxygen to the bloodstream. However, in emphysema, holes form in the inner walls of the alveoli. As emphysema progresses, the airways leading to the alveoli lose their elasticity. Eventually, the weakened air sacs collapse and trap oxygen in the lungs.

COPD, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, makes it difficult for people to exhale old air fully. When people with emphysema take a breath, the old air cannot get out completely, so new air cannot get inside. People with emphysema struggle to breathe and often have trouble receiving enough oxygen.

Your emphysema prognosis depends on how advanced your emphysema is and the severity of your emphysema symptoms.

Emphysema Causes

In fact, emphysema can result from a variety of causes. The most common causes include:

  • Genetics
  • Cigarette Smoking
  • Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency
  • Long-term Exposure to Environmental Air Pollutants

Emphysema Prognosis

Emphysema Prognosis and Treatment Options

Currently, there is no cure for emphysema, chronic bronchitis, COPD or other chronic lung diseases. To diagnose and better understand the severity of your emphysema, your doctor may take a detailed medical history, run tests and recommend certain procedures.

For example, many doctors perform pulmonary function tests (PFTs) to help them diagnose the condition, understand the severity and what treatments could work best. PFTs measure how well your lungs and current treatment plan are working.

Your doctor may also perform a 6-minute walk test to assess your exercise tolerance. In addition, chest x-rays, blood tests and CT scans may be needed. After performing tests, your doctor may place your emphysema into stages. The emphysema stages help you and your doctor better understand the severity of your symptoms and your emphysema prognosis.

Emphysema Stages

The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) created the GOLD System to place certain chronic lung diseases into stages. The GOLD System uses the forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) measurement from a PFT to categorize emphysema and COPD. In the GOLD System, the emphysema stages are as follows:

  • Very mild or Stage 1: Very mild emphysema with a FEV1 about 80 percent or more of normal.
  • Moderate or Stage 2: Moderate emphysema with a FEV1 between 50 and 80 percent of normal.
  • Severe or Stage 3: Severe emphysema with FEV1 between 30 and 50 percent of normal.
  • Very severe or Stage 4: Very severe emphysema with a lower FEV1 than Stage 3, or those with Stage 3 FEV1 and low blood oxygen levels.

While these stages are helpful, nobody can accurately predict emphysema prognosis or emphysema life expectancy. However, doctors can use tests and procedures to estimate emphysema prognosis and life expectancy.

Hearing that there isn’t a cure may sound like a bleak emphysema prognosis, but there are treatment options available to manage emphysema symptoms.

Emphysema Treatment Options

Emphysema Prognosis and Treatment Options

Emphysema treatment options work to manage symptoms, so people can breathe better. Traditional treatments include bronchodilator inhalers, corticosteroids, combination inhalers, antibiotics and oxygen therapy.

Bronchodilators help open the airways and relax the muscles around the airways. Corticosteroids help reduce inflammation. Combination inhalers typically combine a bronchodilator and an inhaled corticosteroid into the same inhaler.

For an infection, antibiotics may be prescribed. Often, people with emphysema have trouble getting enough oxygen and experience low blood oxygen levels. Sometimes, oxygen therapy is used to help people maintain a better blood oxygen level.

Emphysema causes many people to feel short of breath, especially during activity. It’s normal to avoid doing activities that make you feel breathless. However, it’s been shown that even gentle exercises like walking strengthen muscles and improve stamina. Ask your doctor about what amount and type of exercise is best for you.

Diet can affect emphysema as well. Avoid foods that cause excess gas and bloating, such as fried foods, broccoli, cabbage and carbonated beverages. Try baked foods, steamed vegetables, fruit smoothies and water instead. Check out these COPD-friendly foods for more ideas, and remember to talk with your doctor before changing your diet.

For some people, trying an alternative treatment, such as cellular therapy, has helped them return to their favorite activities. Cellular therapy works to promote healing from within the lungs and may improve quality of life. In fact, many of our patients have reported feeling better and breathing with more ease after treatment. Under the supervision of their doctor, some patients have reduced or come off of their oxygen therapy. If you or a loved one has emphysema, COPD, chronic bronchitis or another chronic lung disease and would like to learn more about cellular therapy options, contact us at (800) 729-3065.


  1. Lung Institute

    4 months ago


    We are sorry to hear about your condition.

    We collect patient outcomes data, and 84.5% of patients included in the study report an improvement in their quality of life after receiving treatment from a Lung Institute clinic.

    For many of our patients, treatment has helped them feel better and breathe more easily. To hear more from our patients, check out our testimonials page. We’re happy to answer your questions about cellular treatment, so feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149 to speak one-on-one with one of our patient coordinators. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


    The Lung Institute

  2. judy

    4 months ago

    I have never had cough nor mucus (except when having a cold)
    i do not respond to albuterol (mildly)
    spiriva contriuted to 3 renal failures
    advair contributed to multiple pneumonias
    i have been diagnosed with both obstructive and restrictive lung disease

  3. Lung Institute

    6 months ago


    Thank you for your comment and we are sorry to hear about your condition. While there is no cure for emphysema, it can be controlled through medication. We would suggest you talk with your primary doctor or specialist to discuss your condition. They would be much more familiar with the specifics of your situation and would have a more educated opinion. Every case is different.

    In the meantime, you can learn more about cellular treatment options and have your questions answered by one of our patient coordinators. Feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149 for more information. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


    The Lung Institute

  4. tobie

    6 months ago

    can one live a normal life with mild emphysema. I ask because i recently had a ct scan of my lung and there was some evidence of emphysema. no nodules or cancer of any form was detected. the emphysema diagnosis came as something of a surprise as i exercise regularly and vigorously, have a resting pulse of 55, bp of 120/70, etc. in short all my vitals are good and my doctor didn’t hear anything abnormal when she listened to me breathing with a stethoscope. (the ct scan was done at my request, as i once was a smoker but quit 15 years ago.)

  5. Lung Institute

    6 months ago


    We are sorry to hear about your condition. You can contact one of our patient coordinators to discuss your condition, but you are doing the right thing by working with your doctor and having tests done.

    Our dedicated medical team has a wealth of knowledge about cellular therapy, treatment options, candidacy, cost and more. We’re happy to answer your questions, so feel free to give us a call at (855) 313-1149. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


    The Lung Institute

  6. merci

    6 months ago


    I had an x-ray done and the result was: Moderate to significant emphysematous changes. No focal acute-appearing
    abnormalities are identified. my primary doctor requested me to do the pft and 24-hour holter monitor, which i’m scheduled next week. i did not smoke in my life, or drink. nobody smokes in my house and i am not exposed to chemical HAZARDS. what do you think my problem is. i have dry cough and fluttering throat and chest, this push me to cough. no shortness of breath, no phlegm too. it worries me a lot and can’t wait until the result of the pft. but i would like to know your opinion, thank you very much.

  7. Lung Institute

    9 months ago


    Thank you for your comment. If you have any questions about your diagnosis, I would definitely recommend asking more questions to get clarification. Your health is the most important thing, so don’t be shy about asking additional questions until you feel clear in your mind about the answers.

    All of our clinics are currently located in the United States, and we do have people who travel from out of the country for treatment. Currently, we have clinics in the following locations: Tampa, Pittsburgh, Scottsdale, Dallas and Nashville. If you have any additional questions, or would like to learn more about cell therapy, please call (888) 510-7519 to speak with a patient coordinator.

    -Lung Institute

  8. Ellen

    9 months ago

    My doctor told me i have mild emphysema, yet when i looked up my symptoms, they appear to match Gold stage two, can i trust that the results of my pft were of 80% or more, or should i be probing my doctor for more info about these results? Do you treat people From caNada for cells?

  9. Matt

    12 months ago

    Hello Mary,
    Thank you for your question. There are many factors which go into determining the life expectancy of someone with end-stage COPD. We suggest discussing your concerns with your primary doctor. They will be able to give you more information. If you have any other questions, please give us a call at (855) 313-1149. Thanks again and have a great day.

  10. MARY

    12 months ago


  11. Phoebe

    1 year ago

    Dear Emil,

    Thanks for your comment and question. At the Lung Institute, we only treat people with certain chronic lung diseases, such as COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, pulmonary fibrosis and interstitial lung disease. We aren’t familiar with cell therapy for AFIB, and we don’t treat heart conditions at our clinic. We recommend talking with your doctor about your questions regarding cell therapy for AFIB. We wish you the best.

    Kind Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  12. Phoebe

    1 year ago

    Dear Susan,

    Thanks for your question. At the Lung Institute, patients need to be cancer-free for a minimum of five years. To learn more about cellular treatment options and to find out if you’re a candidate, feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149 to speak one-on-one with our medical staff. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Best Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  13. Susan

    1 year ago

    How long does a patient have to be free of cancer before undergoing Stem Cell Therapy?

  14. EmiL

    1 year ago

    Hi,My name is EmiL. I had lung cancer in 2006 and took out half of my left lung.My cancer never retuned so far,but I do have AFIB of my heart.Can cell supplement help me restore my heart beat to near normal.Thank,s.

  15. Matt

    1 year ago

    Thank you for your question. Some of our past patients were facing a lung transplant and decided to try cell therapy instead. Don was one of those patients who decided to have cell therapy and found great success. Click here to watch Don share his story and his experience with the Lung Institute. If you have any other questions, please call one of our patient coordinators at (855) 313-1149. Thanks again and have a great day.

  16. Name

    1 year ago

    Have people with stage 4 copd and emphysema and told they need a double lung transplant to survive ever
    been helped by your treatments? Susan

  17. Matt

    1 year ago

    Hello Janice,
    Thank you for your questions. Yes, your husband can attend any of our seminars. Click this link to sign up for one of our seminars. For all other questions, please give one of our staff members a call at (855) 313-1149. Thanks again and have a great day.

  18. janice

    1 year ago

    I am very interested in Stem Cell Therapy. Are there other ways to pay for it because I’ve been told insurance doesn’t pay? Can my husband attend the seminar with me?

  19. Phoebe

    1 year ago

    Dear Lynn,

    Thanks for your comment. We’re happy to answer your questions about cellular therapy. Contact us at (855) 313-1149 to speak one-on-one with one of our patient coordinators. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Best Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  20. Lynn Roby

    1 year ago

    I would like to know. More about cell

  21. Matt

    1 year ago

    Hello Oscar,
    Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, insurance does not cover our treatment at this time. It usually takes several years before insurance companies begin covering newer medical procedures, once they’ve seen a financial benefit in their favor first. Click here to learn more about this topic. If you have any questions, please give us a call at (855) 313-1149. Thanks again and have a great day.

  22. Oscar

    1 year ago

    I have blue care advantage. and I am 100% disabled from the VA . Does this insurances cover this treatment? I have chronic bronchitis . My mother and grandmother had some kind of COPD. My sister also has it. I take inhalers and use my nepblier as needed,

  23. Matt

    1 year ago

    Hello Rick,
    Thank you for your post. If you’re interested in learning more about cell therapy and the Lung Institute, please give us a call at (855) 313-1149. That way one of our patient coordinators can go over all your questions in greater detail. Thanks again and have a great day.

  24. Rick

    1 year ago

    Is this very expensive? I think I would be a stage 3 candidate.. Thank you, Rick

All claims made regarding the efficacy of Lung Institute's treatments as they pertain to pulmonary conditions are based solely on anecdotal support collected by Lung Institute. Individual conditions, treatment and outcomes may vary and are not necessarily indicative of future results. Testimonial participation is voluntary. Lung Institute does not pay for or script patient testimonials.

As required by Texas state law, the Lung Institute Dallas Clinic has received Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval from MaGil IRB, now Chesapeake IRB, which is fully accredited by the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Program (AAHRPP), for research protocols and procedures. The Lung Institute has implemented these IRB approved standards at all of its clinics nationwide. Approval indicates that we follow rigorous standards for ethics, quality, and protections for human research.