Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are two conditions, which are often mistaken for one another. This is because of the fact that they’re both respiratory conditions and can cause certain symptoms including coughing, shortness of breath, and wheezing.
However, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are in fact very different diseases. Moreover, understanding what differentiate one from the other is very important to make a correct diagnosis and effective treatment.
Here are five main differentiating characteristics, which can help to make a proper diagnosis of both of these similar conditions…
According to health experts, the age of a person when the disease starts appearing is one of the major distinguishing features between asthma and COPD since it is quite different in both cases.
Many experts say that in case of asthma, people are mostly diagnosed as children, whereas the onset of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease tends to be mostly in adults who are over the age of 40 and are current or former smokers.
The other factor that distinguishes asthma from COPD is the cause behind both the problems. However, the exact cause of asthma is still not known to medical professionals, even though there are some studies that shown that both genetic and environmental factors (such as exposure to certain substances, like dust, pollen, and smoke) can play a key role in this.
On the other side, the cause is much more clear-cut in case of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as smoking is the main reason people develop this health problem. Moreover, smoking also attributed to about 85 to 90 percent of all deaths related to COPD. Apart from smoking, other factors that can also be responsible in causing this problem include exposure to air pollution, certain chemicals, as well as second-hand smoke.
While there are certain symptoms that may seem very similar in case of asthma and COPD, like coughing, shortness of breath, and wheezing; there are slight differences in symptoms of these both. For example, people with COPD generally experience a chronic cough that produces much more phlegm and mucus than those with asthma.
In addition, in people with asthma breathing can return to normal between attacks while in those with COPD it usually does not. Moreover, in case of COPD, symptoms generally become worsen over time, which is not quite common with asthma.
As mentioned above, asthma is often triggered by certain environmental factors like exposure to certain substances including pollen, smoke, and dust. However, health experts believe that some other factors such as cold air and physical exercise can also worsen asthma symptoms.
While in case of COPD, the symptoms are usually triggered by some respiratory tract infections such as influenza and pneumonia. However, in some cases, those with COPD might experience symptoms when they are doing any activity or resting, without any known trigger.
Even though there are certain similar medications, like inhaled steroids and bronchodilators that are used to treat both asthma as well COPD; the treatments and therapies recommended for each of them is quite different. In case of asthma, people dealing with it are encouraged to avoid certain personal triggers, such as keeping pets out of their space or avoid going outdoors when triggers such as tree pollen are high.
While people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are also advise to avoid triggers. First of all, it is more important for those dealing with COPD to quit smoking if they want to prevent further damage to the lungs. Apart from any prescribed medications, treatments and therapies, some other treatment options like lung volume reduction surgeries, lung transplants (in serious cases), or oxygen and pulmonary rehabilitation is also recommended for those with COPD.
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