Knowing the Difference between Asthma and COPD

Pulmonary Disorders, in its entire complexity, may be generally classified as chronic or acute. Asthma, which is characterized by the narrowing of the bronchial tubes, is an acute allergic reaction recurring in unexpected bouts in many susceptible individuals. On the other hand, the more progressive types such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), as the name suggests, can be considered as persistent and long lasting. The causes of COPD and asthma may share a number of similarities, but the nature and the severity of the symptoms are different.

Overview of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
COPD is categorized as either obstructive or restrictive.

In an obstructive COPD, the passageway of air is blocked by allergens or minute particles, which is evident in heavy smokers who eventually acquire emphysema or bronchitis.

Asthma, which is characterized by the obstruction of the bronchial tracts, falls under constructive COPD. The amount of oxygen that enters the lungs is greatly diminished, causing the individual to exert more effort to breathe.

On the other hand, restrictive COPD is characterized by the actual restriction of the ability of the lungs to expand, which may be caused by scarring of the lung tissues, as well as other factors.

Common symptoms such as coughing, difficulty in breathing, and wheezing may be evident in individuals with COPD, although unique individual differences also play a role in the intensity and the frequency of the symptoms.

Acute Asthma
Just like COPD, asthma is considered as a pulmonary disease; but in contrast to COPD, the symptoms in individuals with asthma may occur in shorter periods and is therefore categorized as acute.

The presence of allergens, whether natural or artificial in origin, triggers the asthma attack in individuals. These allergens may include dust particles, pollens, or even ingredients found in some medicines. Cold air or intense physical activities such as exercise may also trigger an asthma attack, with symptoms that may include coughing, wheezing, difficulty in breathing, and in some severe cases, vomiting or choking.

Asthma and COPD
Specific types of medications and treatments may vary across many individuals with COPD. Depending on the severity of the cases, the supplementation of oxygen may be needed to make up for the impaired ability of the lungs to absorb the much-needed oxygen from air. In fact, a lifetime supplementation of oxygen may be needed in unusually severe cases.

In some of the acute cases of asthma attacks, administering a vasodilator can alleviate the symptoms altogether. The use of vasodilator is also evident especially in cases of emergency when the patient needs immediate medical attention to clear the constricted or obstructed air passageway.

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