COPD vs Asthma: Similarities and Differences

While the initial symptoms are similar, there are a lot of long-term differences when comparing COPD vs asthma. Click here to learn more.

In the US, around 25 million Americans have asthma. This illness constricts your airway, which can make it difficult to breathe; so much so that it’s fatal in some cases.

But this isn’t the only disease that makes breathing difficult. There’s also chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

When it comes to COPD vs asthma, do you know the difference? Let’s explore their similarities and differences in this article.

COPD vs Asthma Symptoms

When it comes to initial symptoms, these illnesses are almost identical. They include:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness

Even later, more serious symptoms are very similar. They can include a blue tint to your skin (due to a lack of good circulation) and respiratory distress. At their worst, both COPD and asthma can cause death.

A big difference to note here is that with COPD, you might get a cough that brings up phlegm. Also, asthma symptoms will come and go (during attacks) while COPD symptoms are more long-term. Most people with COPD also experience a chronic cough while asthmatics only experience coughing during attacks.

Asthma vs COPD Exacerbation

For most people, they find out they have asthma at a very early age since it half depends on genetics and half on environmental factors. But it’s not unheard of to have adult-onset asthma.

COPD, on the other hand, usually occurs in people over 40. This is because the onset is mostly due to smoking. Other factors include your environment and an alpha-1 deficiency.

For both diseases, smoking will definitely exacerbate your symptoms. Other things that’ll make your condition worse are spray chemicals, perfumes, scents, and allergens.

Asthma vs COPD Treatment

The treatments for asthma and COPD are different.

For asthma, you’ll be prescribed a rescue inhaler that has short-acting beta-agonists and anticholinergics. These will open up your airways and reduce mucus production when you have attacks.

If the rescue inhaler isn’t enough, then you’ll be prescribed long-term medications such as corticosteroids, long-acting beta-agonists, leukotriene modifiers, immunomodulators, theophylline, and other anti-inflammatory drugs to manage your asthma attacks.

It’s not uncommon to see asthma symptoms completely reversed with proper treatment. Many asthmatics return to completely normal breathing!

Because COPD causes daily symptoms that get worse with time, you’ll be prescribed some similar medications to asthma, with some other ones on top. They include bronchodilators, corticosteroids, phosphodiesterase-4 (PDE4) inhibitors, and antibiotics if you have infections. You might get a combination medication like a Trelegy Ellipta prescription.

You might also be put on supplemental oxygen. Your doctor might also put you in pulmonary rehabilitation. If the COPD is bad enough, surgery can remove the damaged parts of your lungs.

COPD vs Asthma: Do You Have Either?

Now that you know a little more about COPD vs asthma, do you think you have either? Then speak to your doctor to get a diagnosis, then treatment and management, if applicable. That way, you’ll be able to breathe easy!

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