What is COPD vs. asthma?
What is COPD?
COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a lung disease caused by chronic interference with lung airflow that impairs breathing and is not fully reversible. Usually, symptoms, for example, shortness of breath, recurrent coughing, clearing throat, and progressive exercise tolerance, worsen over time.
What is asthma?
Asthma is a respiratory condition marked by spasms of the bronchi, due to inflamed and narrowed airways in the lungs. Asthma causes difficulty in breathing that often results from an allergic reaction. Many substances may trigger asthma attacks.
- Asthma usually causes recurring periods of shortness of breath, wheezing, and/or chest tightness.
- Often, asthma can be fully reversible with medical treatment and breathing can return to normal.
What are the causes of COPD vs. asthma?
COPD is caused by long-term exposure to lung irritants that damage lung cells. The main cause of COPD in the United States is cigarette smoke followed by other tobacco smoke (including secondhand smoke). Other possible causes of COPD include chemical or toxic fumes, and inherited (genetic) factors, like alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, but these causes are far less common than cigarette smoking.
Although cigarette smoke may trigger asthma in some patients, asthma triggers are different from person to person, and most commonly include airborne substances such as pollen, dust, mites, mold spores, pet dander, and/or many other substances. Inflammatory immune reactions to asthma triggers in the airways are the main cause of asthma.
What are the symptoms of COPD vs. asthma?
There are some similarities in the symptoms and signs of COPD and asthma:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
- Exercise intolerance
- Wheezing (a whistling or squeaking sound in the chest)
- Anxiety with increased heart rate may occur in both diseases.
There are some differences in the symptoms and signs of COPD and asthma:
- In asthma, breathing can return to normal between attacks, while breathing with COPD usually does not return to normal.
- The symptoms of COPD gradually become more severe. (This also may occur if you have asthma.)
- COPD produces more mucus and phlegm compared to asthma.
- Chronic cough is common with COPD.
- People with COPD often have chronic blueness to fingernail beds and/or lips (cyanosis).
- Asthma can occur in a person of almost any age, while COPD usually occurs in those over the age of 40. (Although some individuals can develop COPD at a younger age.)
What are the treatment guidelines for COPD vs. asthma?
There are many treatment options and ways to manage COPD. The newest 2017 guidelines emphasize the use of combined bronchodilators as first-line therapy for COPD. Doctors recommend vaccinations for people with the condition to decrease the risk of lower respiratory tract infections. Alterations in health-related behaviors (for example, stopping smoking) are emphasized. Spirometry measurements can help determine the extent of obstructive lung disease. As COPD progresses, oxygen therapy, especially if you have obstructive sleep apnea, may help improve your survival.
Like COPD, there are many treatment options and ways to manage asthma. Your primary care doctor and/or an allergist will discuss and suggest the best choice of treatment and management drugs for you. Medications used include corticosteroids, short-acting beta-agonists (for example, albuterol, Proventil, and other brand names), and occasionally anticholinergic medications for severe exacerbations.
Occasionally, for long-term treatment and management of asthma, doctors will prescribe long-acting anticholinergic medications (for example, salmeterol [Serevent] and formoterol [Foradil]), corticosteroids, and/or other drug combinations of drugs. You and your allergist may need to try different drugs to find the most effective treatment for your condition. Your doctor may recommend allergy shots (immunotherapy) if you have become desensitized to certain asthma triggers.
Emergency treatment of life-threatening asthma or COPD may involve intravenous corticosteroids, intubation, mechanical ventilation, and oxygen treatment until the crisis is resolved.
What is the prognosis and life expectancy for COPD vs. asthma?
The prognosis for COPD ranges from fair to poor and depends on how rapidly COPD advances over time. In general, individuals with COPD have a decrease in their lifespan according to research.
If you have asthma, the prognosis for most people ranges from fair to excellent, depending upon how well you can identify what triggers your attacks, and your response to medication.
Morris, M. "Asthma Treatment and Management." Medscape. May 11, 2022. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/296301-treatment>.
Top COPD vs. Asthma Differences and Similarities Related Articles
What Is Asthma? Symptoms, Causes, and TreatmentsWhat is asthma? What is the main cause of asthma? Learn information about asthma, a chronic disease of the bronchiole tubes. Discover information about asthma attacks, complications of asthma, and how to control an asthma attack.
Asthma QuizAsthma is a chronic disease of the airways of the lungs, which can be managed with proper treatment. Triggered by two main causes, asthma symptoms can be brought on by environmental factors and surprising allergens.
Acute BronchitisBronchitis is inflammation of the airways in the lung. Acute bronchitis is short in duration (10-20 days) in comparison with chronic bronchitis, which lasts for months to years. Causes of acute bronchitis include viruses and bacteria, which means it can be contagious. Acute bronchitis caused by environmental factors such as pollution or cigarette smoke is not contagious. Common symptoms for acute bronchitis include nasal congestion, cough, headache, sore throat, muscle aches, and fatigue. Acute bronchitis in children also my include runny nose, fever, and chest pain. Treatment for acute bronchitis are OTC pain relievers, cough suppressants (although not recommended in children), and rest. Infrequently antibiotics may be prescribed to treat acute bronchitis.
Bronchitis PictureAcute bronchitis usually comes on quickly and gets better after several weeks. See a picture of Acute Bronchitis and learn more about the health topic.
What's Bronchitis? Symptoms and TreatmentsIs bronchitis contagious? Learn about bronchitis, an inflammation of the lining of the lungs. Explore bronchitis symptoms, treatments and medication for bronchitis.
Bronchitis QuizWhat happens within the body when a person develops bronchitis? Take this quick quiz to learn the causes, symptoms, treatments, and complications of this common respiratory illness.
Chronic BronchitisChronic bronchitis is a cough that occurs daily with production of sputum that lasts for at least 3 months, 2 years in a row. Causes of chronic bronchitis include cigarette smoking, inhaled irritants, and underlying disease processes (such as asthma, or congestive heart failure). Symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, and wheezing. Treatments include bronchodilators and steroids. Complications of chronic bronchitis include COPD and emphysema.
COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a lung condition caused by smoking tobacco, exposure to secondhand smoke, and/or air pollutants. Conditions that accompany COPD include chronic bronchitis, chronic cough, and emphysema.
Symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, wheezing, and chronic cough. Treatment of COPD includes GOLD guidelines, smoking cessation, medications, and surgery. The life expectancy of a person with COPD depends on the stage of the disease.
COPD QuizCOPD is a combination of three conditions? Take this quiz to learn the three conditions that make up the pulmonary disease called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
COPD Lung SymptomsCOPD is a pulmonary disorder caused by obstructions in the airways of the lungs leading to breathing problems. Learn about COPD symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.
COPD vs. EmphysemaCOPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is the term doctors and other healthcare professionals use to describe a group of serious, progressive (worsens over time), chronic lung diseases that include emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and sometimes asthma. The number one cause of COPD or emphysema, is smoking, and smoking is the third leading cause of death in the US.
EmphysemaEmphysema is a COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) that often occurs with other obstructive pulmonary problems and chronic bronchitis. Causes of emphysema include chronic cigarette smoking, exposure to secondhand smoke, air pollution, and in the underdeveloped parts of the world. Symptoms of emphysema include chronic cough, chest discomfort, breathlessness, and wheezing. Treatments include medication and lifestyle changes.
Exercises for COPDThe more you exercise, the better you'll feel with COPD. Breathe easier with these 10 exercises from WebMD.
How Do You Shrink Rectal Prolapse?Rectal prolapse is a condition in which the last part of your large bowel (rectum) comes out of your anus. Ideally, you cannot shrink the prolapse. You can just restore your rectum to its normal position by manual reduction or surgery. In rectal prolapse, the rectum can only be shrunk when its mucosa is swollen due to the buildup of fluid in it. For this, before pushing it inside the anus, you can apply a few granules of sugar on it, and let it rest there for a few minutes. Sugar will absorb the excess water in the rectum and cause it to shrink.
What Drugs Are Used in Rapid Sequence Intubation?Rapid sequence intubation (RSI) is the administration of a strong anesthetic agent followed by a rapidly acting paralytic agent (all within one minute) to make the patient unconscious. Drugs used in rapid sequence intubation (RSI) include potent anesthetic agents (propofol, ketamine, etc.), muscle relaxants or paralytic agents, and pharmacological adjuncts (fentanyl, lidocaine, etc.).
What Is a Nebulizer Used for?A nebulizer is a device that helps a person inhale medicine in the form of a mist through a mask or a mouthpiece. A nebulizer delivers the drug directly into the airways and the lungs, achieving targeted action and minimizing systemic side effects in the body. It is used to relieve various symptoms related to the lungs.
What Is the Life Expectancy of Someone With COPD?Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of diseases with the chief symptom of breathlessness and cough. COPD is a slowly progressive disease. Depending on the disease severity, the five-year life expectancy for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) ranges from 40%-70%. That means 40-70 out of 100 people will be alive after five years of diagnosis of COPD.
Why Is Decortication Performed?Decortication is a surgical procedure that removes the restrictive layer of fibrous tissue overlying an organ. It is mostly performed to remove the fibrous layer over the lung, chest wall, and diaphragm. Decortication surgery aims to remove this fibrous layer and allow the lung to expand, decrease breathing problems and other lung symptoms. There are two types of decortication surgery: open thoracotomy and video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS).