Asthma is defined as an inflammatory condition that affects the airways, which carry air to and from the lungs. The chronic inflammation leads to recurrent phases of chest tightness, breathlessness, wheezing and coughing typically at night and early morning.

COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is a disease that is characterized by restricted airflow that is usually progressive and incurable. Millions of people are affected by COPD and surprisingly most are not aware that they have it. Making a note of the symptoms can lead to early diagnosis and control of the condition. Almost 40% of COPD sufferers have asthma. Most people who have asthma are at a high risk of developing COPD. With age, the chances of getting both the conditions only increase.

COPD and Asthma

The symptoms of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and asthma are similar. Therefore, while asthma is regarded as a separate respiratory issue, sometimes it is confused with COPD. Taking a closer look at both the conditions will help make a note of the differences between COPD and asthma.

  • Age

Asthma is usually diagnosed very early in life. COPD symptoms on the other hand, typically show up in adults who are more than 40 years of age and who are former or present smokers.

  • Nature

While COPD affects both the parenchyma and the airways, asthma affects just the airways. One of the most important differences between COPD and asthma is the nature of the inflammation. It is CD-4 driven and eosinophilic in the case of asthma, but CD-8 driven and neutrophilic in the case of COPD.Another important clinical information is that while in asthma the airway obstruction is fully reversible, it is not the case with COPD.

Another important clinical information is that while in asthma the airway obstruction is fully reversible, it is not the case with COPD.

  • Effects

An asthma attack leads to constriction of bronchial muscles. The bronchial tubes swell due to allergens, which in turn increases inflammation. COPD has more severe effects than asthma. The presence of pathogens such as pollution and smoking often leads to cell damage. There is the secretion of excess mucus and lung damage.

  • Triggers:

Asthma is triggered by exposure to extreme weather conditions, allergens, and physical exertion. COPD is aggravated mostly by respiratory tract diseases such as the flu and pneumonia.

  • Causes

Till now no one has found the causes of asthma. It is usually thought to be due to a combination of environmental and hereditary reasons. COPD is caused mostly by smoking and certain other factors such as chemicals, air pollution, etc. Smoking can worsen asthma and smokers are likely to suffer from both COPD and asthma.

External Factors

Asthma attacks typically happen due to the presence of external factors over which a person has little or no control. In case of COPD, the symptoms happen inside the respiratory system and can be increased by the presence of a secondary infection.


Asthma attacks are not constant. They come and go. COPD symptoms are usually constant though there maybe improved with medication. People suffering from asthma can be symptom-free for certain periods without treatment. On the other hand, people with COPD are hardly if ever free of symptoms and need daily treatment.

Mucus Production

During asthma coughs, wheezing is a common symptom and mucus are not produced. COPD cough always results in mucus production and almost no wheezing.

Also Read: Asthma alert – take extra care!


Here are some ways to prevent asthma in children and adults:

  • Breastfeeding infants for at least 8-9 months
  • Maintaining bedroom hygiene scrupulously. Keeping pillows, mattresses, bed sheets clean of allergens.
  • Protecting the child from allergens, pollen, and dust mites
  • Keeping children away from active/passive smoking.

Here are some ways to prevent COPD:

  • Avoiding exposure to smoking
  • Staying away from pollen, dust, and other kinds of allergens
  • Keeping the house clean and dust-free


Both Asthma and COPD are incurable, but you can still live a normal, healthy life with the right treatments and lifestyle habits.


There are several differences between COPD and asthma. The treatment for both the conditions is different and sufferers will benefit from a proper diagnosis and the right treatment plan. Whether you have asthma or COPD, it is important to visit your doctor regularly.

Also Read: How Safe Are Asthma Drugs?


Your medical history, symptoms, physical examination and medical tests can help your doctor identify if it is asthma or COPD. However, it is not uncommon to find both diseases co-existing in an individual so there might be symptoms of both in a person.

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