Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. Asthma can cause ongoing periods of wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing and chest tightness. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, asthma affects people of all ages, but it most often starts during childhood. In the United States, more than 25 million people are known to have asthma. About 7 million of these people are children.
But do you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and recognize any of the above symptoms? If the answer is yes, you may not be aware that the same symptoms can occur in COPD and asthma. COPD is an umbrella term that describes respiratory diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. How are COPD and asthma related? And what makes them different?
COPD and Asthma: What’s the Link?
While COPD and asthma are both considered to be separate respiratory diseases, they very much do share the same symptoms. These include: coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Both conditions are diagnosed with a spirometry test and are treated accordingly. Since COPD and asthma share many of the same features, it can be hard to tell the differences between each disease or if they overlap causing overlap syndrome. Roughly 40 percent of known COPD sufferers also have asthma, which is considered a risk factor for developing the disease. As you age, the likelihood of overlap syndrome increases between these conditions.
What’s the Difference?
There are a number of key differences between COPD and asthma, but let your doctor determine if you are suffering from either one or both of these diseases. Here are a few differences between COPD and asthma:
- Age – An easy difference between COPD and asthma is the age when a diagnosis is made. Asthma is most often diagnosed in childhood or adolescence, while COPD is diagnosed later in life.
- History of smoking – Nearly all patients with COPD either have smoked or have a significant environmental tobacco smoke exposure, while asthma patients are more commonly non-smokers.
- Trigger signs – For the most part, asthma is acutely worsened by exposure to allergens, cold air and exercise. COPD flare-ups are largely caused by respiratory tract infections like pneumonia and influenza. COPD can also be made worse from exposure to environmental pollutants.
- Treatment – The goal of treatment is different for both diseases. Asthma is treated to suppress chronic inflammation, whereas COPD is treated to reduce symptoms. The effects of asthma can be reversed, while COPD only progresses further.
If you believe that you might be suffering from COPD or asthma, contact your doctor today and find out. There are options available to help treat either condition. If you would like to find out more about our available treatment options, please contact one of our patient care coordinators today at 888-745-6697 to schedule a free consultation.