Dr.Kamini Silvarajan MD/AAAM

Editorial Board: Dr.Kamini Silvarajan MD/AAAM

Difference Between Asthma COPD

Asthma and COPD

Difference between asthma and COPD normally, not a problem. COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, involving constriction of the airways and difficulty or discomfort in breathing) was primarily a problem of older people who smoked. As more men/women and younger people began smoking, however, the disease of COPD began to change. 
As a result, asthma and COPD can now sometimes be confused. Asthma and COPD happen in both young and old, men and women. Let's consider factors that will assist you to differentiate between asthma and COPD.

Generally, the symptoms of asthma and COPD may be identical, the pathophysiology of asthma and COPD are very different. Both asthma and COPD may be considered inflammatory diseases, but the inflammation comes from different types of cells.

Referring to pathophysiology of asthma, inflammation results acutely from the production of eosinophils [a white blood cell containing granules that are readily stained by eosin(is a fluorescent red dye resulting from the action of bromine on fluorescein. It can be used to stain cytoplasm, collagen and muscle fibers for examination under the microscope. 

Structures that stain readily with eosin are termed eosinophilic.)], while inflammation in COPD primarily involves the production of neutrophils (white blood cell) and macrophages (a large phagocytic cell found in stationary form in the tissues or as a mobile white blood cell, esp. at sites of infection)over many years.

Symptoms of Asthma and COPD

Both can cause the following symptoms:- 

  1. Wheezing
  2. Chest tightness
  3. Shortness of breath
  4. Chronic cough
But, base on the number of times and the main element symptoms in asthma and COPD are different. With COPD, you are more likely to experience a morning cough, increased amounts of sputum(a mixture of saliva and mucus coughed up from the respiratory tract, typically as a result of infection or other disease and often examined microscopically to aid medical diagnosis), and persistent symptoms. If you have asthma, you are more likely to experience symptoms in episodes and/or at night. Subsequently, asthma symptoms are likely to occur after exposure to specific triggers.

Asthma and COPD Treatments

Generally,medical healthcare providers may use some of the same medications for the treatment of asthma and COPD, but actually these medications can be different for both.

The treatment in asthma is to be symptom free with almost normal lung function, while for COPD treatment is to prevent the progression of damage to the lung, decrease aggravation: (action that makes a disease (or its symptoms) worse, and improve quality of life. 

Medications used in both asthma and COPD may include:-

Inhaled steroids: 

Inhaled steroids, such as Flovent, are favorable in both asthma and COPD because the medication tend to act directly in the lung, but inhaled steroids are used differently in asthma and COPD. In asthma, inhaled steroids are typically used first when a daily medication becomes necessary, usually after you progress from intermittent to mild persistent asthma. In COPD, inhaled steroids are added after patients develop severe COPD and added aggravations. 


While short acting anticholinergics, such as Atrovent, are used in the treatment of acute asthma aggravations, long-acting anticholinergics like Spiriva are generally not used as a controller medication in asthma. Spiriva, however, is used relatively early in COPD because it has been associated with improvements in lung function, symptoms, and quality of life while decreasing COPD aggravations and hospitalizations. 

Short acting bronchodilators (SABAs): 

In asthma, SABAs are used for the periodic relief of acute symptoms, but once you use a SABA enough to meet the criteria for mild persistent asthma, subsequent medication is required. On the other hand, scheduled SABAs are one of the first treatments for COPD. 

Long acting beta agonists (LABAs): 

While long acting beta agonists like Serevent may be used as a convenient method of starting COPD treatment, LABAs are not included in asthma until you have moderate persistent asthma.That concludes asthma and COPD.