Difference Between Asthma And COPD

Both asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) share similar characteristics, but they're not the same conditions. Read on to know the difference between Asthma And COPD in detail.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD as it’s known, and asthma are two commonly occurring respiratory conditions. Coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath are the first symptoms of asthma and COPD. Due to the similar signs and symptoms of COPD and asthma, it is easy to confuse one condition for the other. Read on for detailed information on similarities and differences between COPD and asthma.


Key Difference between COPD and Asthma


COPD is an umbrella term used for diagnosis of progressive respiratory diseases such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema or a combination of both. The condition is mainly caused due to swelling of airways and the presence of the mucus.


 Asthma is a chronic condition that is characterized by airflow obstruction in the airways. asthma also leads to swelling of airways and formation of mucus.


However, there are a few key differences between COPD and asthma such as,


1. Age


Airway obstruction occurs in both conditions. The initial onset is often the most distinguishing feature between and .


  • COPD

COPD usually develops after 40 years of age, largely in people who are current or former smokers.


  • Asthma

Asthma is typically diagnosed during childhood and is common in those with a family history. 


2. Variation in Symptoms


COPD and asthma symptoms seem quite similar especially with shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing occurring in either case. However, the main difference between COPD and asthma are that the symptoms of asthma disappear after the episode has taken place whereas, with COPD, the symptoms never disappear but worsen with the passing of time. The following could help you get a clearer view about the difference in symptoms of COPD and asthma:


  • COPD

A daily morning cough that produces phlegm is one of the most characteristic symptoms of. The symptoms typically worsen over time and persist despite treatment.


  • Asthma

involves recurring attacks, which can be accompanied by allergies or eczema. Wheezing and tightness in the chest, especially at night, are key symptoms to look out for. These symptoms vary seasonally and improve quickly upon administration of medication.


3. Causes


Smoking and air pollution are both overlapping causes of asthma and COPD. However, there are a number of other causes that are fairly different.


  • COPD

Causes of COPD are more clear cut than the causes of asthma. According to the Global Burden Of Disease Study 1990-2016, 53.7 percent of COPD cases in India were attributable to air pollution. The pollutants in the air, such as particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide, cause lung damage by inducing epithelial cell inflammation, airway hyperactivity and lung injury. They also reduce the levels of anti-oxidants in the lungs and make it more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution. Other common causes of COPD include long-term exposure to tobacco smoke, secondhand smoke, dust, fumes and chemicals. Although this condition is usually not genetic, a small number of people have a rare form of COPD called alpha-1 deficiency-related emphysema. This is caused by a genetic condition that affects the body’s ability to produce alpha-1 protein, which works to protect the lungs.


  • Asthma

Possible triggers of asthma include a combination of environmental factors around the person. Exposure to certain kinds of allergens can trigger an asthma attack. These include pollen, dust mites and pet hair. A common cause of asthma also happens to be related to genes and is a condition that can be inherited.


4. Risk Factors


  • COPD

The main risk factor for is exposure to noxious particles which may include cigarette smoke, biomass smoke and/or pollution. Besides smoking, the other risk factors in young adults are airway hyperresponsiveness, a family history of asthma and childhood respiratory infections.


  • Asthma

The primary risk factors for asthma include allergic conditions such as eczema, family history of, obesity, air pollution and occupational exposure to chemical fumes and vapours.


5. Treatment


Quite a few of the treatments for both conditions are similar. Inhalation therapy can provide relief for both. Read on to know the key areas of difference in treatments for both the conditions.


  • COPD

Bronchodilators are the first-line maintenance treatment for COPD and are essential in managing the symptoms.


  • Asthma

However, it is quite the opposite with asthma. The first-line maintenance therapy for most people with this condition is an inhaled corticosteroid. This prevents symptoms by minimising inflammation.


6. Prognosis


The prognosis of both the conditions is as follows:


  • COPD

The prognosis of ranges from fair to poor, depending on how rapidly it advances over a period of time.


  • Asthma

When it comes to asthma, the prognosis for most people is fair to excellent, depending on how well the triggers are identified as well as the response to the medication.


It should be noted that COPD and asthma can occur together. Asthmatics who smoke are more susceptible to COPD.




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