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Difference Between Asthma and COPD: How To Diagnose And Treat Both The Conditions?

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Lung disorders are quite gruesome and unforgiving health conditions that can instantly suck all the energy out of the patient on a scale of 0 to 100. There are different kinds of reasons behind different kinds of breathing disorders and 2 such disorders that are mostly confused as the same thing are ‘COPD’ (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), and ‘Asthma’. If you’ve been battling with breathing troubles without much luck, you might be getting the treatment done for an entirely different disease because the symptoms of both these lung disorders are surprisingly very similar. If this rings the bells of alarm in your mind too, then you must read the guide below that cites the list of the major difference between asthma and copd.

5 Surprisingly Similarities Between Asthma And COPD

It is necessary that you learn about the similarities between Asthma and COPD to develop a better understanding of the difference between asthma and copd symptoms. The main reasons that both these diseases give an almost similar impression on the surface are listed below.

  1. Both lead to swelling in the trachea
  2. Both the conditions cause congestion
  3. Both the conditions lead to cough and wheezing
  4. Both result in rapid pulse increase due to breathlessness
  5. Both the conditions are followed by chest tightness and, often, anxiety
  6. Both the diseases are inflammatory

As a result, it gets difficult to determine whether you’re suffering from COPD or Asthma without proper diagnosis.

Differences Between Asthma And COPD
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How To Identify If A Person Has Asthma Or COPD?

Identification tricks and diagnosis will come at a later stage. It’s mandatory that you first know what Asthma and COPD exactly are. Undoubtedly, both are chronic, but they have a basic classification that is also the major difference between asthma and copd.

Asthma is caused by constriction in the air passage due to bronchitis and/or allergic reactions that can be a result of allergens like pollens. Even certain foods and fruits are associated with the risk of triggering an asthmatic attack. However, remember, food allergy is just an asthma trigger. Do not confuse it with asthma.

COPD, on the other hand, is a pulmonary condition where the patient experiences difficulty in breathing due to blockage in the air tubes.

Having said that, now comes the turn to address the elephant in the room – the basic difference between Asthma and COPD.

Major Differences Between Asthma And COPD

It’s by far clear that Asthma, currently, there is no cure for Asthma as well as COPD. However, there are treatments to control them both. Having said that, the major differences between these two strikingly similar health conditions include the following.

  1. Asthma can be revered but COPD is irreversible. It means that Asthma does not necessarily damage the lungs (untreated and chronic Asthma may lead to some sort of damage that can still be treated), but COPD does. COPD is, in fact, caused by permanent lung damage.
  2. Asthma usually begins during a young age and goes away with time and proper precautions, but COPD, on the contrary, begins at the later stages of life.
  3. Asthma can be widely genetic but the chances that COPD will be hereditary are very bleak.

In fact, according to various types of research conducted at the American Lung Association, there have been constant clinical trials that are coming up with breakthrough results on potential drugs that might be able to even cure Asthma permanently.

According to Hong Ji, a Ph.D. researcher, it will be possible to subside the frequency of genetic asthmatic attacks in children, in the near future, by identifying the body’s mechanisms that control genes characteristics – which ones are dormant and which ones will remain active.

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What Are Asthma Triggers And What Causes COPD?

Asthma caused due to inflammation has the following major triggers.

  • Foods like eggs and shellfish
  • Pollen and dust
  • Strong fragrances from deodorants and talcum powder
  • The smell of fresh paint in the house, doors, and windows
  • Settled Dust
  • Mattresses
  • Hairy pets like cats and dogs

These are a few, but major, asthma triggers you should be careful about.

COPD, on the other hand, is a result of;

  • Lung damage due to smoking cigarettes
  • Excessive exposure to pollution
  • Smoke coming out of the chimney and stove (Chula and Sigri)

The following people are the most vulnerable to developing COPD.

  • People working at the coal mines
  • People actively visiting hookah bars
  • People responsible for making jewelry and other items in smoky conditions
  • People working in chemicals and textile mills

Whilst these are the reasons behind Asthma and COPD, these breathing disorders can be treated to reduce the intensity of the attacks and can be kept under control. But first comes the difference between asthma and copd diagnosis.

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Asthma Diagnosis

An asthma diagnosis is of different kinds. The step-by-step diagnostic tests that doctors run are listed below.

  • Physical Screening – The doctor will study your medical history and check your breathing pattern with a stethoscope. It also involves a thorough checkup of your chest, eyes, nose, and throat.
  • Lung Function Tests – These are basically designed to measure lung capacity. The most common lung function tests include Spirometry, Peak Airflow, FeNO test, and Provocation test.
  • X-ray for Sinus blockage
  • Allergy test

Also See: Causes, Prevention, Symptoms and Treatment of Asthma

COPD Diagnosis

The only best way to diagnose COPD during the initial stages is Spirometry.

Frequently Asked Questions

The guide above answers most of the key details about the difference between asthma and COPD, yet there are some rare questions that mostly remain unanswered. We have tried to cover them all for your reference in the list below.

  1. Can A Person Develop both Asthma and COPD at the same time?

Yes. This specific condition is known as Asthma COPD overlap syndrome (ACOS). There’s no identified specific reason why it happens. Whilst most of the symptoms resemble the combined symptoms of Asthma and COPD, a few extra symptoms of ACOS may include the following.

  • Formation of excessive phlegm
  • Lethargy and short breath even while doing normal work
  • Excessive breathing difficulty during exercises

Also, ACOS is far more dangerous than Asthma and COPD alone.

  1. Does Asthma have different types?

Yes. It is primarily categorized into the following 4 types.

  1. Exercise-induced Asthma
  2. Cough-variant Asthma
  3. Nocturnal Asthma
  4. Occupational Asthma
  1. How many stages does COPD have?

COPD has the following four stages as categorized by the Lung Institute.

Stage 1- Mild (FEV1 ≥ 80%)
Stage 2- Moderate (FEV1 between 50 to 79)

Stage 3- Severe (FEV1 between 30 to 49)

Stage 4- Very severe (FEV1< 30)

The chances of recovery are better during the earliest stages (stage 1 and 2).

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