Asthma & Allergy

COPD vs. Asthma: Difference in Causes and Treatments

Both chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma are conditions of the lungs that cause the airways to swell and become hard, making it difficult to breathe. COPD is a term that describes progressive respiratory conditions like chronic bronchitis and emphysema. While, asthma is a separate respiratory condition where the swelling is triggered. Both these conditions are often mistaken for each other as they have both cause swelling in the airways. Let’s take a look at the differences:

1. The causes of COPD and asthma

The major known cause of COPD is smoking and exposure to fumes from burning fuel for heating and cooking. It is majorly observed in developed and developing countries. Most people who have been diagnosed with COPD have been smoking regularly for years prior to their condition. Even working in factories where one is exposed to chemicals on an everyday basis or people who stay in polluted areas are at risk of developing this condition. Whereas, the exact cause of asthma is not known. The possible causes of asthma include genetic factors, environmental factors, or a combination of both. Exposure to certain allergens is known to trigger allergies thereby causing asthma. The common triggers of asthma are dust mites, pet hair, physical activity, pollen, respiratory infections, mold, smoke, and certain medications.

2. Average age of diagnosis

People who breathe in pollution, work around chemicals, or smoke have an increased chances of being diagnosed with COPD compared to others who aren’t exposed to these factors. It usually takes years for the condition to develop and hence, most people are diagnosed in later stages. While, in case of asthma, it has been observed that the condition is passed down through families in some cases. Hence, the condition is usually diagnosed during childhood.

3. Treatment of COPD and asthma

COPD is a long-term health condition has no cure so the goal of the treatment is to cope with the symptoms in order to live a better life. Also, the condition tends to progress with time and hence, the other objective of the treatment is prevention of the symptoms from getting any worse. Typical COPD treatments include:

  • Medicines: such as inhaled steroids, oral steroids, bronchodilators, combined inhalers, and other antibiotics are used for coping with symptoms.
  • Surgeries: In severe cases, there are certain surgical procedures performed for the removal of damaged lung tissues like lung volume reduction surgery, bullectomy, or lung transplant.
  • Lung therapies: Pulmonary rehabilitation programs and oxygen therapy programs like exercising regularly, education, counseling, and nutritional in order to increase the quality of life.

Similar to COPD, asthma is a chronic condition that can not be cured, but managed with the help of treatments. One of the major parts of the treatment involves knowing the triggering and taking precautions accordingly to avoid them. Common treatments of asthma include:

  • Allergy medicines: These are used in order to cope with allergies in case of triggers.
  • Medications like bronchodilators provide quick relief in case of sudden triggers and symptoms.
  • Other long-term medications, such as corticosteroids, leukotriene modifiers, and long-acting beta agonists (LABAs) are meant to help control asthma and reduce symptoms over the long term. These may be prescribed by doctors in combination with inhalers.