Asthma and COPD: Similarities, Differences and the Connection Between Them

Asthma and COPD: Similarities, Differences and the Connection Between Them

Dec 01, 2020

Asthma is a prevalent lifelong condition that causes the narrowing of your airways. It is quite a common condition that affects nearly 24 million people worldwide. In America, it affects 1 out of 13 people. Asthma is one of the major reasons as to why people come to our emergency room in Houston.

On the other hand, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is responsible for countless deaths in the United States. COPD is a chronic lower respiratory collection of illnesses that typically comprise of emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

In both cases, these lung diseases obstruct the airways or the lungs, making it difficult for you to breathe. In certain circumstances, people who have COPD ideally do not have asthma and vice versa.

But at times, there are circumstances where you will have asthma and COPD together. Then, you will have a condition that is known as Asthma-COPD overlap syndrome (ACOS).

Facts About COPD and Asthma

COPD is a progressive disease that is caused by an interference with the airflow in your lungs, which impairs your breathing, and when you get it, it is not fully reversible. It is one of the reasons why people land in our 24-hour emergency room near you.

Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are typically the underlying issues with COPD. With emphysema, the tiny sacs in your lungs, known as the alveoli, get damaged. On the other hand, in chronic bronchitis, the bronchial tubes get inflamed. Smoking is one of the leading causes of COPD.

With asthma, there is inflammation of the airways that causes spasms of the bronchi. Breathing becomes more challenging as the airways narrow. An allergen causes asthma. Symptoms typically get better when you are no longer exposed to the allergens. In fact, you might go for some time without experiencing an asthma attack.

Symptom Similarities Between COPD and Asthma

Asthma and COPD share some symptoms, such as:

  • Wheezing ( a squeaking or whistling sound in your chest)
  • Chest tightness
  • Anxiety with an increase in your heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Exercise intolerance

Symptom Differences Between Asthma and COPD

Some of the differences between COPD and asthma are:

  • COPD symptoms become worse over time and not necessarily the case with asthma
  • With asthma, your breathing can return to normal after an attack, but your breathing doesn’t return to normal if you have COPD.
  • Chronic cough is quite common with COPD
  • COPD produces more phlegm and mucus than asthma
  • Anyone at any age can have asthma, but COPD typically occurs in people over 40 years
  • People with COPD have cyanosis (bluish color of the lips and fingernails)

Causes of COPD and Asthma

In most cases, long-term exposure to irritants is what causes COPD. This is why the number one cause of COPD is cigarette smoke, including second-hand smoke, in the United States. Other causes of COPD may include genetic factors, toxic or chemical fumes.

On the other hand, asthma is caused by an allergen such as pollen, mold spores, dust, mites, pet dander, and other allergens. Exposure to any of these allergens causes inflammation of the airways.

Asthma and COPD Overlap

In some cases, you might have asthma and COPD at the same time. This is referred to as Asthma-COPD overlap. This is not a disease on its own, but it is acknowledging that you have a mix of both asthma and COPD symptoms. It is not entirely clear about what causes ACOS.

However, it is critical that you seek treatment from our ER near you since ACOS is more severe than when you had one condition.


Our doctor may use treatments such as allergy shots, corticosteroids, and anti-inflammatory drugs to reverse the symptoms if you have asthma. As you know by now, COPD gets worse with time. Some of the treatment options that can help slow down the progression of COPD are:

  • Antibiotics
  • Bronchodilators
  • Corticosteroids

Other than that, supplemental oxygen and pulmonary rehabilitation are non-drug treatments that are used to manage COPD.

But if you have ACOS, you will need customized treatment. We will have to try different combinations of treatments to find the one that suits you best.

The sooner you come to see our doctor at our 24-hour emergency room near Houston, the better. Contact our doctor today at Memorial Heights ER if you need ACOS, COPD, or asthma treatment.

December 1, 2020
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