Emphysema is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and occurs in the lungs. It is not reversible. The life expectancy for someone with emphysema depends on many factors. For patients who have never smoked, their life expectancy will only be reduced one to two years. Smoking cuts someone's lifespan by an average of 3.5 years.
Life expectancy for 65-year-old men who have emphysema (the most likely age group) and who currently smoke depends on how far their emphysema has progressed. In addition to the 3.5 years lost due to smoking, current smokers in stage 1 and stage 2 emphysema lose 0.3 and 2.2 years respectively. Smokers in stages 3 and 4 lose 5.8 years, plus the 3.5 due to smoking. Former smokers in stages 2 and 3 lose 1.4 years, while those in stage 4 lose 5.6 years [source: Shavelle, et al.].
There are also other factors that greatly contribute to the life expectancy of someone with emphysema. First, weight and overall health are important factors. You should maintain a healthy body weight with a proper diet and regular exercise. Second, if you have other chronic conditions, such as HIV or connective tissue disorders in addition to emphysema, your life expectancy will be reduced. Third, emphysema also exacerbates other health concerns, such as diabetes and heart problems. Complications due to diabetes and/or heart problems may eventually cause death. Fourth, you should also avoid exposure to secondhand smoke and other hazardous fumes and dust to improve your life expectancy. Simply inhaling indoor fumes, such as heating fuel, or outdoor fumes, such as car exhaust, can complicate your condition [source: Mayo Clinic].