Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are both respiratory conditions that are chronic and affect a person’s breathing. With many shared similarities, the two can easily be misdiagnosed for one another and that is why testing is so important to determine the exact diagnosis. According to a presentation given at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting, nearly 50 percent of older adults with an obstructive airway disease have overlapping characteristics of COPD and asthma. Presenter and allergist William Busse said,
Based on symptoms alone, it can be difficult to diagnose COPD vs. asthma. The pathway to a diagnosis of COPD or asthma — smoking vs. a long-term persistence of asthma — can be quite different. In every patient, but in older patients in particular, we need to take a thorough history and perform a physical examination, as well as measurements of lung functions. In patients with COPD and asthma, the changes in lung function may be severe, and it is not often readily apparent, which is the predominant, underlying condition — asthma or COPD.Treatment will differ depending on diagnosis.
ACAAI president Michael Foggs added,
The primary treatment in COPD is bronchodilators, including long-acting beta agonists. They help relax muscles around the airways in the lungs, allowing air to flow more freely. They should not be given alone to people with asthma. In COPD, but not asthma, inhaled corticosteroids have been associated with an increased risk for pneumonia, and in some cases, features of both asthma and COPD exist. For these patients, a combination of inhaled corticosteroids and long-acting beta agonists is usually best.
Aside from symptoms, treatment methods can also be similar in COPD and asthma. For example, bronchodilators are used in both COPD and asthma. Both patients are also advised to avoid triggers, especially smoke. Below we will reveal more of the similarities and differences between COPD and asthma to help you understand what makes each disease unique.
Asthma And COPD: What Is The Difference?
The primary difference between COPD and asthma lies in their pathophysiology – the functional changes associated with either condition. Both result from inflammation and hyperactivity, but COPD results from macrophages and neutrophils,
Asthma vs. COPD: U.S. Prevalence And Economic Impact
The CDC reports that one in 14 Americans live with asthma, with a total of about 24 million Americans suffering the condition. Of these, 7.4 percent are adults and 8.6 percent are children. As you can see, asthma is more common in children than adults, and boys develop asthma more often than girls. Every day, an estimated 10 Americans die of asthma, and many of these deaths are avoidable and preventable. Since 1999, asthma-related deaths have increased by 26 percent. African Americans are at a higher risk of death by asthma than other ethnic groups. Asthma costs roughly $3,300 per patient annually including medical
Asthma And COPD: Differences Outlined
Asthma: is a common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction, and bronchospasm. COPD: is a type of obstructive lung disease characterized by chronically poor airflow.
Asthma: Chronic coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, spasms in bronchioles. Symptoms go away between episodes. COPD: Decreased airflow, increased inflammation, spasms in bronchioles, morning cough with phlegm. Symptoms never disappear, but progressively worsen.
3. Nature Of Cough
Asthma: Dry COPD: “Productive” (yields mucus)
Asthma: Physical exam, medical history, including history of allergies Typically in children COPD: Spirometry measuring lung function and capacity, CT scans; Typically in adults over
5. Classical Presentation
Asthma: Younger patient, recurrent episodes of wheezing and coughing, accompanying tight chest and breathlessness. Symptoms quickly respond to bronchodilators. COPD: Older patient, smoker or former smoker, progressive shortness of breath and cough with mucus, accompanied by decreased physical activity. Responds to bronchodilator, but lung function does not return.
Asthma: Allergens, cold air, exercise COPD: Environmental pollutants, respiratory tract infections – pneumonia, influenza
7. Risk Factors
Asthma: Allergies, eczema, rhinitis COPD: Asthma, smoking
8. Medical Treatment
Asthma: Bronchodilators; Airway opening medication; Inhaled corticosteroids to reduce inflammation; Oral steroids for moderate to severe cases COPD: Bronchodilators; Airway opening medication; Pulmonary rehabilitation; Oxygen support for advanced stages; Hospitalization
9. Lifestyle Changes
Asthma: Cease smoking, avoid allergens and air pollution COPD: Cease smoking, avoid air pollution
Risk factors And Complications
Factors that increase a person’s risk of developing asthma include having a blood relative with asthma, having another allergic condition, being overweight, being a smoker, and being exposed to second-hand smoke, exhaust fumes, or pollution, as well as occupational triggers such as hairspray or chemicals used in farming. If asthma is not well managed, the risk of complications rises. Complications related
COPD And Asthma: Signs And Symptoms
Symptoms of asthma include shortness of breath, chest tightness or pain, trouble sleeping due to breathing difficulties, whistling or wheezing sound when exhaling, and coughing. Symptoms of COPD are very similar to asthma, but also have some differences including shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, the urge to clear mucus from your throat in the morning, chronic cough, blueness of lips or fingernail beds, frequent respiratory infections, lack of energy, and unintended weight loss, which is more common in the later stages of the disease.
Asthma: Comparing Causes
The cause of asthma is unclear, but it could be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some common triggers of asthma include airborne allergens, respiratory infections, physical activity, cold air, air pollutants, certain medications, strong emotions and stress, sulfites and preservatives, and GERD. In developed countries, smoke is the primary cause of COPD, but other causes include emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Lung damage, either due to cigarette smoking or other irritants, can contribute to the onset of COPD, too. In some patients, COPD is a result of a rare genetic disorder that causes low levels of alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAt), which is a protein made by the liver that protects the lungs.
Treatment Options For COPD And Asthma
Asthma diagnostic tests include spirometry, which estimates the narrowing of your bronchial tubes, and peak flow, which measures how hard you breathe out. Additional tests include methacholine challenge, nitric oxide test, imaging tests, allergy testing, sputum eosinophils, and provocative testing for exercise and cold-induced asthma. Treatment for asthma is lifelong and often involves inhaled medications including inhaled corticosteroids. Other medications used to