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How can you understand the stages of emphysema?

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When attempting to understand the stages of emphysema, it's important to know how the medical community uses two staging methods of emphysema. The GOLD staging system focuses primarily on breathing and lung capacity, and the BODE index takes into account other factors such as how the patient feels, according to WebMD.

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The GOLD, or global obstructive lung disease, system is based on the patient's lung function, according to Healthline. Current GOLD staging rates emphysema's progression between stage 1 and stage 4, ranging from near-normal lung function to end-stage disease. End-stage emphysema is often when the patient experiences heart failure or respiratory arrest.

The BODE staging system takes more than lung function into account, according to Healthline. "B" stands for body mass index, which measures body fat. Patients with a low BMI tend to have a lower life expectancy with emphysema. "O" represents airflow obstruction, which is the GOLD system. "D" is for dyspnea, or trouble breathing, which can point to a lower survival rate. Lastly, "E" stands for exercise capacity. Usually patients take a walking test to determine how much exercise they can perform. Other factors such as smoking, diabetes and heart disease can affect how long a patient may live with emphysema.

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