Common respiratory diseases like asthma, bronchitis and COPD can seriously impact a person’s quality of life, but proper diagnosis and treatment can help those who suffer live more comfortably. Understanding the differences between asthma, COPD and bronchitis can help lead to appropriate care.
The differences between asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, are often more clear once risk factors are examined. Risk factors for asthma are different from risk factors for COPD. With asthma the primary risk factors include allergens, such as dust, pets and mold. Occupational factors are also associated with asthma. This could include dust or chemicals in the workplace. Some people with asthma also experience respiratory infections. When it comes to COPD, smoking is the biggest contributing factor. Occupational factors also exist, but it is normally strong chemicals entering the lungs that lead to the damage. Outdoor pollution and alcoholism are risk factors for COPD, too.
If you have a respiratory infection, it is true you can get bronchitis, but there are other risk factors that don’t resemble asthma or COPD. For example, some people who suffer from bronchitis have a bronchial obstruction, while others have experienced complications following an organ transplant.
Asthma vs. chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Asthma is a respiratory condition that comes with spasms in the bronchi of the lungs that make it difficult to breathe. It is often mistaken for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. When someone has COPD they experience a decrease in airflow over a period of time. They also have inflammation of the tissues that line the airway. The issue of asthma vs. COPD is really about age.
People with asthma are normally diagnosed at a young age; however, COPD symptoms usually appear in adults over the age of 40 who currently smoke or smoked at some point in their lives. The triggers for asthma are also different than those for COPD. For example, asthma is made worse by allergens, cold air and exercise. COPD sufferers feel worse when they experience respiratory infections, such as the common flu, pneumonia or environmental pollution. What sometimes confuses both patients and doctors is that asthma and COPD can share similar symptoms, including shortness of breath and airway hyper-responsiveness. This is when our airways are very sensitive to things we inhale.
Both asthma and COPD can be treated. Quitting smoking and applying treatments that can open airways can be helpful. Still, loss of full lung function is only reversible in people who suffer from asthma. If someone is diagnosed with both asthma and COPD, it will likely lead to a faster decline in lung function as the COPD progresses.