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Asthma vs COPD: Which Poses a Greater Risk?

Introduction

To breathe and the ability to breathe easily are often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of life. This blog provides a comprehensive overview of Asthma and COPD, along with the identification of which is riskier.  

Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) are both complex pulmonary conditions that affect millions of Americans. There are multiple research organizations based in Michigan and Texas conducting Asthma and COPD research exploring potential new treatment options. As they both are lung conditions it is very common that people usually mix up the two. But it should be noted that both of them are two different conditions. Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition, that is marked by airway hyper-responsiveness (AHR). Although it shows a chronic pattern of airway obstruction, it is reversible. On the other hand, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is characterized by progressive and irreversible obstruction of the airways. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) includes diseases namely Emphysema and Chronic Bronchitis. Chronic Bronchitis is the long-term inflammation of the airways, leading to increased mucus production and cough. Emphysema is a condition that causes a breakdown of the air-sacs, resulting in loss of elasticity.  

Symptoms of Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

                          Asthma                               COPD 
                         Coughing                    Breathlessness 
     Whistling sound when breathing (wheezing)                        Wheezing 
                Shortness of Breath                    Chest Tightness 
                  Chest Tightness             Persistent Cough with Mucus 
                       Fatigue                           Fatigue 
          Increased Mucus Production             Frequent Respiratory Infections 

 

Progression and Causative Factors

Asthma

Asthma is more likely to occur in individuals of younger age. The progression of Asthma varies among individuals, but it is generally categorized into: 

  • Intermittent Asthma: In this, symptoms occur less than twice a week in daytime. At night symptoms occur less than twice a month.  
  • Mild Persistent Asthma: In this, symptoms occur more than twice a week in a day. At night symptoms occur more than twice a month. 
  • Moderate Persistent Asthma: In this, symptoms occur every day. At night symptoms occur more than once a week. The symptoms might have also started affecting daily life activities. 
  • Severe Persistent Asthma: In this type of asthma, symptoms are continuous throughout the day. At night symptoms are also present. Symptoms severely affect daily life activities. 

Asthma results from a combination of both environmental and genetic factors.  

Genetic factors involve a family history of asthma. Environmental factors include exposure to allergens, pollen, and pet dander. Exposure to certain chemicals, fumes, dust and tobacco smoke can also cause the development of asthma.  

Exposure to any of these factors can either cause the development of asthma or worsen the existing asthma. These factors cause inflammation and increased mucus production in the airway. Prolonged exposure to these factors may lead to a phenomenon known as “Airway Remodeling”. This permanently changes the walls of your airway.  

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

COPD is a progressive disease that progresses slowly but becomes severe overtime. The progression of COPD varies among individuals but is generally categorized into: 

  • Mild COPD: It causes mild airflow limitation with chronic cough and mucus production. 
  • Moderate COPD: Shortness of breath during exercise becomes more noticeable. Symptoms of stage 1 intensify. 
  • Severe COPD: Shortness of breath during daily activities. Coughing and wheezing occur more frequently. 
  • Very Severe COPD: Stage 3 symptoms worsen, and quality of life is significantly impacted with recurrent hospitalizations due to breathing problems. 

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is mainly caused by tobacco smoke. Other factors include prolonged exposure to indoor pollutants, dusts, chemicals, recurrent respiratory infections in early life and lastly a rare genetic condition called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency in which the liver is unable to produce sufficient protein to protect your lungs. 

Comparison of COPD and Asthma

Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) share similarities and differences. While there is a genetic component in both the diseases and they also share some common symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing. Asthma involves immune cells that fight infection and hence consequently leads to inflammation. COPD on other hand causes lung damage by the release of different white blood cells.  

The symptoms of asthma often respond well to medications, offering relief. However, COPD symptoms persist and do not go away — COPD’s symptoms can be managed by addressing them with treatments or lifestyle changes. 

Treatment

Treatment approaches of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease vary and depend upon the symptoms and progression of disease. 

Asthma

Treatment options for asthma include: 

  • Bronchodilators: To relax muscles around airways 
  • Antibiotics: For infections and pneumonia 
  • Corticosteroids: For acute attack  
  • Inflammatory drugs: To prevent swelling of the airways  

The primary objective of the treatment is to enhance breathing and minimize the frequency of asthma attacks. 

Also Read: Saddle Pulmonary Embolism and Paradoxical Embolism Triggering Asthma Exacerbation

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

The treatment for COPD includes: 

  • Antibiotic medicine for Lung Infections. Medications are also taken for coughing and wheezing. 
  • Administering Supplemental Oxygen if blood oxygen levels are inadequate. 
  • Corticosteroids to reduce swelling. 
  • Combination of bronchodilators and corticosteroids. 
  • Rehabilitation programs that offer lifestyle tips and dietary recommendations to enhance quality of life. 

Also Read: COPD Flare Ups: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, and Preventions

Which Poses a Greater Risk? Asthma or COPD?

While both Asthma and COPD have severe implications they are largely influenced by the nature of condition. Asthma is characterized by intermittent attacks that vary in severity but do not progress over time. On the other hand, COPD is a progressive disease that worsens over time without intervention. The chronic impact involves gradual decline in lung function and increased vulnerability to lung infections. 

Hence, as asthma poses risks during attacks, COPD poses a greater risk due to its progressive nature. 

Conclusion

In light of the above given facts, the comparison between asthma and COPD enlightens us about the distinct risk each condition carries. Asthma is characterized by episodic attacks; they require timely management so that they do not escalate in severity over time. In contrast COPD gets worse slowly. It makes breathing harder, weakens your body and makes catching infections easier. Lifestyle adjustments and proper treatment plans improve the quality of life for individuals affected by this condition.  

Revival Research Institute is a leading clinical organization in the USA. They are actively conducting clinical trials focused on asthma and COPD. These clinical trials play a crucial role in advancing the understanding of respiratory conditions and contribute to the development of new therapies. This ultimately will improve the life of those affected by asthma and COPD.  

 

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