Know the Difference: Asthma and COPD

Know the Difference: Asthma and COPD

People with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Asthma are familiar with the common symptoms like coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. It’s easy to mistake one condition for the other as they have one big thing in common: The inability to get enough air into the lungs. Alternatively, after diagnosing the symptoms, medical history, and results of medical tests, the doctor can further determine the severity of it. But both the conditions are different from each other.

Know the Difference: Asthma and COPD

Symptoms and Signs of COPD

  • COPD is a term used for people who are suffering from chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or a combination of both. People with chronic bronchitis find it hard to breathe because of swollen and mucus filled airways. A daily morning cough that produces phlegm is particularly characteristic of chronic bronchitis.
  • Similar changes occur in asthmatic people, but they happen because of triggers like cigarette fumes, pet dander, dust etc. Episodes of wheezing and chest tightness (especially at night) are more common with asthma. People with COPD tend to have fewer symptoms without triggers, but exposing them to triggers can worsen their symptoms.
  • COPD is nearly always linked with a long history of smoking, while asthma occurs in both i.e., non-smokers as well as smokers. Smoking also worsens asthma and smokers are most likely to suffer from a combination of both asthma and COPD.
  • COPD patients first develop a chronic cough and dyspnea. However as disease severity progresses, cough and dyspnea result in decreased tolerance of exercise and increased disability.
  • Patients with asthma usually develop wheezing, shortness of breath and cough. Asthma’s symptoms are irregular and cover a spectrum from mild-to-severe disease and are also characterized by reversible airway obstruction.
  • People who have asthma are typically diagnosed as children, while COPD symptoms usually show up only in adults over the age of 40 who are current or former smokers.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors that increase the risk of COPD include occupational dusts, long term exposures to cigarette fumes, chemicals and indoor or outdoor pollution. A childhood history of respiratory infection can lead to reduced lung function in adulthood.

How to Prevent COPD & Asthma?

COPD Prevention

  1. COPD is a preventable disease that can be achieved through pre-defined guidelines.
  2. Highest importance for preventing and limiting its progression is by cutting off tobacco.
  3. If you have trouble quitting smoking on your own, consider joining a support group.
  4. Avoid any other type of lung irritants that can contribute to COPD.
  5. Flu vaccines, Pneumococcal vaccine and Pertussis vaccine are recommended to ensure the disease does not turn into something really serious.

Asthma Prevention

  1. Get influenza and pneumonia vaccination.
  2. Avoid the triggers that worsen your asthma. Outdoor allergens and irritants like pollen, cold air and air pollution are the most common.
  3. Monitor your breathing. Any irregularity will let you know.
  4. Take your asthma medications as prescribed.
  5. Track your asthma and recognize early signs before it get worse.


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