As with many health conditions, symptoms can be misleading. A chronic cough, for example, could have multiple causes. Some may assume they just have chronic allergies. Worse yet, they may blow off a chronic symptom, attributing it to the climate or physical fitness. However, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) could be the culprit.
Asthma and COPD can be easily confused, though. So a proper diagnosis is vital in order to effectively treat the condition.
The Similarities between Asthma vs. COPD
It’s understandable that a person – or even a general practitioner – could mistake COPD for asthma. There are several common symptoms:
- Chronic cough
- Shortness of breath
- Respiratory pain or discomfort.
These symptoms can also be caused by a temporary illness like a bad cold or the flu. If they persist after a few weeks, though, asthma or COPD is very likely the cause. Identification of this cause is important, because the treatments are different.
Distinguishing between Asthma and COPD
There are a number of factors that a respiratory specialist can use to determine the correct diagnosis.
- Age – While both conditions cause airway obstruction, asthma is typically diagnosed in childhood. COPD is generally found in people over age 40 and is often brought on by lifestyle or environmental factors (like smoking or working around chemicals).
- Triggers – Asthma attacks are usually triggered by allergens, cold weather, and physical activity. COPD flare-ups are more commonly caused by illnesses like pneumonia or the flu; pollution or exposure to smoke or chemicals can also trigger aggravations.
- Comorbidities – Illnesses that are common secondary conditions (called comorbidities) have been linked to both asthma and COPD. There are typically more of these secondary conditions associated with COPD, though. These include high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, ulcers, migraines, and insomnia.
Neither asthma nor COPD have a known cure. People diagnosed with either condition can have relatively normal lives, though, with proper treatment. Both conditions respond well to bronchodilators and steroids, which are typically prescribed. People with either condition also need to avoid allergens, monitor aggravations, and quit smoking. COPD causes permanent lung damage, though, so treatments may have to be more extensive, including, in some cases, oxygen treatment or surgery. Regardless of the condition, most people can lead a normal life with proper treatment.
Respiratory Experts in Colorado Springs
Asthma & Allergy Associates in Colorado Springs can give you a diagnosis and provide a treatment plan right for your condition. If you or your child have a chronic cough or are often wheezing or short of breath, give us a call right away. Early diagnosis and treatment of asthma and COPD can drastically improve a person’s long-term prognosis.REQUEST APPOINTMENT