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Difference Between COPD and Bronchiectasis

What is COPD and Bronchiectasis?

Bronchiectasis and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – both conditions involve impaired breathing and both have high hospitality rate. In both the health conditions, the body’s natural inflammatory response includes macrophages, neutrophils, and CD8 T-cells. These acts as primary cell categories responsible for attenuating harm to the air passages. In spite of most of the symptoms being same in both the diseases, these diseases are treated differently and are different in many other aspects from each other.


What is COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is defined as damage to the walls and linings of the lungs which causes trouble in breathing. The primary causes of COPD include persistent exposure to air pollutants and toxic irritants that impair the lungs. As such, there is no cure available for COPD and so, preventive measures are the only treatment. The disease includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis, different types of bronchiectasis, and at some occasion’s asthma.


What is Bronchiectasis?

The disease is defined as irreversible, chronic breathing disorder where the air passages in your lungs (bronchi) are impaired and abnormally widened because of frequent infection and inflammation. This damage to the lungs affects the ability of the lungs to clear the mucus. The condition is characterized by productive cough.

Patients who suffer from bronchiectasis are diagnosed and treated for Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) because of the productive cough symptoms.


Difference Between COPD Vs. Bronchiectasis

  1. Definition


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an umbrella designation to describe the progress lung conditions including emphysema, refractory (which is not reversible) asthma, chronic bronchitis. The main symptom is breathlessness. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is a progressive disorder and there is no cure for it. If it rightly diagnosed, then therapies and treatments are available. Many preventive measures are also there to manage COPD and breath properly. People who experience COPD can live a normal life for many years without any difficulty. 


Bronchiectasis is a disorder in which the air passages are damaged and impaired as a result of an infection or any other condition. The disease causes injury to the walls of the airways and prevents the air channels to clear mucus. As a result, the air ways become scarred and flabby. The mucus builds up resulting in an environment that is favourable for growth of bacteria. This leads to recurrent and serious lung infections. Bronchiectasis can result in serious health problems like heart failure, respiratory failure and atelectasis 

  1. Symptoms


  • Lips or fingernail beds becoming blue (cyanosis)
  • Cough with mucus (sputum) that could be clear, white, yellow or greenish


  • Cough with blood
  • Dry or wet cough
  1. Causes


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is caused by;

  • Smoking
  • Inherited factors like defect in genes – Alpha -1 antitrypsin deficiency
  • Cannabis use, recurrent chest infections, air pollution (chemical fumes)


The disease is caused by:

  • Childhood infections like sever pneumonia, measles, whooping cough and tuberculosis (TB) 
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA)
  • Immunodeficiency
  • Cilia abnormalities
  • Connective tissue diseases – rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
  • Congenital diseases (Mounier-Kuhn syndrome, Williams-Campbell syndrome)
  1. Risk factors


  • Smoking


  • Repeated infections
  • Immunodeficiency Variable 
  1. Treatment of COPD Vs. Bronchiectasis


COPD treatment can include the use of inhalers and anti-inflammatory medicines.

Inhaled steroids include 

Fluticasone (Flonase, Flovent HFA, others) and budesonide (Uceris, Pulmicort Flexhaler, others).

Combination inhalers

Salmeterol and fluticasone, formoterol and budesonide are typical examples of combination inhalers.


  • Lung volume reduction surgery
  • Lung transplant
  • Bullectomy


Bronchiectasis treatment and management includes a combination of antibiotics and air passage clearance methods to eliminate mucus from the lungs. Vaccination against flu (influenza) and pneumococcal pneumonia is also a part of treatment.


If there is blood in the cough, bronchial angiography is needed to have a look at the blood vessels inside the lungs. The aim is to figure out whether blood vessels in the lungs are causing bleeding. If yes, then the process of embolization can obstruct the blood vessels in the lungs causing the whole trouble.

Macrolides – for patients with frequent exacerbations

Lung transplantation

People with severe lung diseases who are left with no treatment option go for Lung transplantation. 

  1. Diagnosis of COPD and Bronchiectasis


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is diagnosed and confirmed by a post-bronchodilator FEV1 less than eighty percent with an FEV1/forced vital capacity (FVC) less than seventy percent.


Bronchiectasis in the beginning mimics the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease features, but as the condition progresses, intensifying lung damage can produce mixed lung performance results. Accordingly, thoracic computed tomography (CT) scans are used to identify and diagnose bronchiectasis. A thick bronchial wall, a big internal bronchial diameter, and modified air passage geometry noticeable through computed tomography (CT) scans are all indicators of possible condition of bronchiectasis.

  1. Occurrence 


COPD is the 3rd leading cause of American death.


Bronchiectasis is considered an orphan disease and is known to affect around 110,000 Americans.



The points of difference between COPD and Bronchiectasis have been summarized below: Tabular form to explain COPD Vs. Bronchiectasis


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  1. I have had bronchiectasis all my life. I had a lobectomy when I was 6 yrs old.
    Bronchiectasis is a 24/7 struggle, for sure. This is the first article I have read explaining the difference between COPD and Bronchiectasis. Even doctors’ offices lump them together as though they are the same thing. This has always bothered me..thinking, they don’t even know the difference. Thank you for clarifying this. I think I will copy this article and carry it around with me for the next person that says I have COPD. I have a wonderful pulmonologist, Dr Emile Klada, and he keeps me going! I’m 73.

  2. I grew up with asthma; I suffered sinus and respiratory infections my entire life. I started smoking at 16. When I was in my early 40s, my asthma was becoming increasingly worse. I was diagnosed with COPD at age 47. I am now 55. I quit smoking four years ago. The disease does not improve. My good days were far,i was scared that i wont survive it but i was so lucky to receive a herbal products from my step father who bought it while coming from South Africa for Rugby league,this herbal remedies saved me from this disease,at first it helps fight the symptoms of diseases and i was seeing good outcome,i had to use it for 13 weeks just as they Dr was prescribed and i was totally cure of asthma and COPD, (multivitamincare.org ) do not hesitate to purchase from them they deliver across worldwide.

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References :

[0]Barker, A. F. (2002). Bronchiectasis. New England Journal of Medicine, 346(18), 1383-1393.

[1]Edelman, N. H., Kaplan, R. M., Buist, A. S., Cohen, A. B., Hoffman, L. A., Kleinhenz, M. E., ... & Speizer, F. E. (1992). Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Chest, 102(3), 243S-256S.

[2]Murphy, T. F., & Sethi, S. (2002). Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Drugs & aging, 19(10), 761-775.

[3]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bronchiectasis.png

[4]Image credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/93/Copd_2010.jpg

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