Difference between Asthma and COPD

Key difference: Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways and unfortunately in today’s world it is quite common. Asthma is known for causing recurring periods of wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing.  COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. COPD refers to a group of lung diseases that block airflow to the lungs and make breathing difficult. These diseases are emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways and unfortunately in today’s world it is quite common. Asthma is known for causing recurring periods of wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing.  The coughing characteristically is worse at night or early morning. Asthma affects people of all ages, but it most often starts during childhood, due to which a number of children have to live with the disease.

The airways are tubes that carry air into and out of the lungs. Asthma causes these airways to inflame, and hence swollen and sensitive. Due to this, the airways tend to strongly react to irritants and outside substances. As the airways react, the muscles around them tighten. This causes the airways to become narrow and carry less air to the lungs that they normally would. Another way that the airways can become narrow is when the cells in the airway produce more mucus than necessary. The mucus coats the inside of the airway, thus restricting space.

Whenever, the airways are restricted, it induces the symptoms of asthma. At times, the symptoms are quite mild and may go away on their own or after minimal treatment with asthma medicine. However, at other times, the symptoms may not subside and may continue to get worse. These instances are referred to as asthma attacks. Asthma attacks are also called flareups or exacerbations. These may require proper medical attention.

There is currently no cure for asthma; however, there are numerous treatments available that can help control the impact of asthma. Hence, it is quite possible to live an average life with asthma, with minimal interference. There various medicines that can help counter the effects of asthma, both long term and short term. There are also various lifestyle choices one can make to reduce the impact of asthma.

In 2011, there were approximately 235–300 million people globally that had been diagnosed with asthma. In the same year, asthma was also responsible for 250,000 deaths.

COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is also known as chronic obstructive lung disease (COLD), chronic obstructive airway disease (COAD), chronic airflow limitation (CAL) and chronic obstructive respiratory disease (CORD).

COPD refers to a group of lung diseases that block airflow to the lungs and make breathing difficult. These diseases are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes which carry air to and from the lungs. Emphysema is when the lung tissue around smaller sacs, called alveoli is practically destroyed. This makes the air sacs unable to hold shape after the air is exhaled.

COPD is most commonly caused by tobacco smoking. The smoking triggers an abnormal inflammatory response in the lung, which over time leads to COPD. COPD may also be caused by exposure to second hand smoking or to noxious particles or gases. However, more often than not, COPD goes undiagnosed, as most smokers attribute their coughing to being a smoker’s cough rather than COPD.

COPD usually gets worse over time. Furthermore, there is no cure for COPD, but the treatment can help control symptoms and minimize further damage. Treatment will not however reverse the damage done to the lungs. Treatment may include smoking cessation, vaccinations, rehabilitation and drug therapy, often using inhalers. Some patients with worse COPD may require long-term oxygen therapy or lung transplantation.

In 1990, COPD was ranked as the sixth leading cause of death worldwide. It is projected to become the fourth leading cause of death worldwide by 2030.

A detailed comparison between asthma and COPD:

 

Asthma

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Description

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways and unfortunately in today’s world it is quite common. Asthma affects people of all ages, but it most often starts during childhood, due to which a number of children have to live with the disease.

COPD refers to a group of lung diseases that block airflow to the lungs and make breathing difficult. These diseases are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes which carry air to and from the lungs. Emphysema is when the lung tissue around smaller sacs, called alveoli is practically destroyed. This makes the air sacs unable to hold shape after the air is exhaled.

Causes

The exact cause of asthma is unknown. Genetic and environmental factors, such as an inherited tendency to develop allergies, called atopy, asthmatic parents, childhood respiratory infections and/or contact with some airborne allergens or exposure to some viral infections in infancy or in early childhood when the immune system is developing may impact cause of asthma.

The main cause of COPD is tobacco smoking. However, in the developing world, COPD often occurs in women exposed to fumes from burning fuel for cooking and heating in poorly ventilated homes. Other irritants can cause COPD, including cigar smoke, secondhand smoke, pipe smoke, air pollution and workplace exposure to dust, smoke or fumes. In rare cases, COPD may result from a genetic disorder that causes low levels of a protein called alpha-1-antitrypsin.

Risk

Young children who often wheeze and have respiratory infections, allergies, eczema of parents with asthma are at highest risk of developing asthma. Some people who often come in contact with certain chemical irritants or industrial dusts in the workplace are also at risk.

COPD is most likely to develop in cigarette smokers, but cigar and pipe smokers also are susceptible. Also people who are constantly exposed to secondhand smoke, to indoor and outdoor pollution, and to occupation related exposure to fumes or dust may also be at risk for developing COPD.

Symptoms

  • Coughing - often worse at night or early in the morning
  • Wheezing, whistling or squeaky sound while breathing.
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Main symptom is a cough that you have at least three months a year for two consecutive years.
  • Shortness of breath, especially during physical activities
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Having to clear your throat first thing in the morning, due to excess mucus in your lungs
  • A chronic cough that produces sputum that may be clear, white, yellow or greenish
  • Blueness of the lips or fingernail beds (cyanosis)
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Lack of energy
  • Unintended weight loss (in later stages)

Diagnosis

Symptoms are irregular. The best way to diagnose asthma is a lung function test.

Symptoms of COPD often do not appear until significant lung damage has occurred, and they usually worsen over time. Diagnosis may require pulmonary function tests, chest X-rays, CT scans and/or arterial blood gas analysis.

Treatment

While there is no cure for asthma, it is possible to control the disease and limit its effects. It is possible to live a normal lifestyle with asthma.

There is no cure for COPD. However, effective therapy can help control symptoms, reduce risk of complications and exacerbations, and improve ability to lead an active life. The most essential step is to stop all smoking.

Statistics

In 2011, 235–300 million people globally have been diagnosed with asthma, and it caused 250,000 deaths.

In 1990, COPD was ranked as the sixth leading cause of death worldwide. It is projected to become the fourth leading cause of death worldwide by 2030 due to increase in smokers and demographic changes in many countries.

Image Courtesy: placeboeffect.com, theconversation.com

Most Searched in Cars and Transportation Most Searched Non-Alcoholic Drinks
Most Searched in Environment Most Searched in Pregnancy and Parenting
Varchar vs Nvarchar
Curling vs Ice Hockey
Tally vs SAP
Navy vs Air Force

Add new comment

Plain text

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.