Coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing is old acquaintances of patients with asthma. But the same symptoms are also typical of another respiratory problem, known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ( COPD ), common among smokers.
Differentiating asthma from COPD in patients presenting with airflow obstruction symptoms may not always be easy. In those individuals with classic symptoms, an adequate medical history and objective support data allow the distinction to be made by the clinician with reasonable certainty. However, many patients who are evaluated for typical signs and symptoms of dyspnea, cough, sputum production, and wheezing do not show the classic description of asthma or COPD. The common scenario for asthma is a patient who is young, atopic, non-smoker, with obstruction to variable airflow and significant reversibility to bronchodilator use. In COPD, the common presentation is a middle-aged or elderly patient, a long-time smoker with a chronic productive cough, progressive dyspnea and evidence of obstruction to the fixed air flow, parenchymal injury and abnormal pulmonary diffusion. It has been widely recognized that there is significant overlap in the phenotypic expression of these two conditions, which may make it difficult for the primary care physician to differentiate between the two conditions.
What Difference between Asthma and COPD?
Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the airways affecting a large part of the population. The symptoms are caused due to an inflammatory process where, during the crisis, the airways become narrow, swollen and sensitive, making it difficult to pass air. In order to prevent asthma, it is necessary to understand the disease. The most frequent symptoms are shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, and tightness in the chest, which can be aggravated by different factors such as allergies, viruses, dust, smoke, exercise, stress, as well as exposure to temperature changes.
The diagnosis of asthma is made through spirometry (evaluation of lung function) where the function is verified before and after the use of a bronchodilator medication. The bronchodilator response characterizes the diagnosis of bronchial asthma.
In recent years, through the discovery of innumerable inhaled medications (firecrackers), it has become possible not only to treat but prevent asthma attacks.
Currently, nebulizers are not used as often as inhaled medications are chosen in most treatments.
A patient with asthma has to have a plan of action to when in crisis, to know what to do, what medication to use, and whether or not there is a need to seek an emergency.
Asthma prevention increases survival, as well as the quality of life, and can significantly reduce mortality.
(Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is also characterized by airflow obstruction due to an inflammatory response.
However, it is most often triggered by smoking, environmental exposure, toxic gases.
In the past, the terms chronic bronchitis and emphysema were widely used. Today, these terms were encompassed by the name COPD. In this way, COPD is most often a preventable and treatable disease.
The symptoms of this disease are shortness of breath, throat clearing, chronic cough, sputum. Shortness of breath is progressive and as the disease progresses many patients may require the use of oxygen.
The diagnosis is always made by a medical evaluation, and the severity is verified through functional evaluation (spirometry) and radiological examinations. Nowadays, individualized and maintained therapy can not only reduce symptoms, such as the risk of hospitalization, increasing the life expectancy of these patients.