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Difference Between Asthma and COPD

The Difference between Asthma and COPD

Respiratory diseases are difficult to discern because of the similarities of the signs and symptoms they manifest. However, there are cardinal or distinct characteristics you should know in order to differentiate one from the other. Certain diagnostic procedures are used to determine these respiratory conditions. Accurate diagnosis is very essential since it is the basis for correct treatment to be rendered.

Two of these lung conditions are usually confused because most symptoms are similar and their ability to affect the breath pattern resemble each other – these two conditions are Asthma and COPD. They may have similarities, but they are not the same. The main clinical difference between the two is that the airway obstruction in asthma is fully reversible, but not with COPD. For you to know more about these respiratory conditions, read on.

Asthma

Asthma_attack-illustration_NIH

Wheezing Sound

Asthma is often characterized by reversible brochospasm brought about by an exaggerated response to various stimuli or allergens. Most of the time, Asthma is diagnosed during childhood or adolescence, although it can happen anytime during your life. There are no or few symptoms manifested between “attacks” or asthmatic episodes and these occur less as you grow older.

COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

Copd_2010Side
COPD is caused by irreversible damages in the lining of the airways brought about by injuries caused by chronic smoking or excessive exposure to environmental pollutants. In response to injury, inflammation occurs, stimulating the damaged lining to secrete excessive amount of mucus further narrowing the air passages. COPD is common among middle aged adults who have a history of chronic smoking and symptoms are consistently present day by day, unlike with asthma, symptoms are only manifested during attacks or exacerbations.

Types of COPD

  • Emphysema

This involves destruction or damage in the small airways and the alveoli (air sacs) of the lungs.

  • Chronic Bronchitis

This is an inflammation of the bronchi or the large airway of the lungs, which result in long-term cough with excessive mucus production.

Asthma vs. COPD – The Comparison

Characteristics

Asthma

COPD

Definition Constriction of lung airways due bronchospasm. Narrowing or constriction of the airways due to inflammation lung airways or damage in the small airways and the alveoli (air sacs) of the lungs.
Etiology Asthma is usually hereditary or associated with autoimmune conditions and triggered by exposure to allergens. Smoking is the number one cause of COPD, but it is also associated with, excessive exposure to environmental pollutants (It develops as a result of faulty lifestyle)
Distinct differences Asthma symptoms are intermittent and the effects are reversible through bronchodilators. In COPD, signs and symptoms are consistent. The damages in the airways are permanent and irreversible and sometimes bronchodilators have little or no effect.
Prevalence Asthma attacks usually occur due to external factors over which you have little or no control – allergens, physical exertion, pollutants, weather etc. Symptoms are generated inside the respiratory system itself and can be aggravated by a secondary infection.
Signs and Symptoms
  • Difficulty of breathing/ Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Excessive mucous production
  • Difficulty of breathing/ Breathlessness
  • Chest tightness
  • Wheezing
  • Excessive mucous production
  • Chronic Productive Cough

*Symptoms may come and go, but it becomes pertinent as time passes and usually accompanied by recurrent pulmonary infections.

Treatment
  • Bronchodilators
  • Breathing exercises (pursed lip and diaphragmatic breathing)
  • Corticosteriods
  • Bronchodilators
  • Antibiotics if associated with lung infection
  • Breathing exercises (pursed lip and diaphragmatic breathing)
  • Corticosteroids

Notes:

*There is little that can be done to treat COPD.

* A person can manifest both COPD and Asthma.

*Asthma and COPD cannot be cured, but the symptoms can be alleviated.

Perhaps the biggest challenge doesn’t come in determining whether a patient has Asthma or a COPD. It is in determining how to prevent and alleviate exacerbations and symptom manifestation. As we all know, breathing is basically what is keeping us alive and problems associated with this significantly affects the quality of life of a person.


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2 Comments

  1. Asthma is not an upper respiratory infection (point number 1 in your summary), nor is COPD a lung infection. There are other inaccuracies in this article. If you’re looking for information on either of these diseases please do not use this “resource” – they are many better ones available online.

  2. Agreed Ashley, very poor information!

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References :


[0]http://www.erj.ersjournals.com/content/21/39_suppl/30s.full
[1]http://www.webmd.com/lung/copd/tc/differences-between-copd-and-asthma-topic-overview
[2]http://www.erj.ersjournals.com/content/21/39_suppl/30s.full
[3]http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4a/Asthma_attack-illustration_NIH.jpg
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