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What is the difference between Asthma and COPD?

Many patients will ask their doctor what is the difference between asthma and COPD. Both cause shortness of breath, cough, and wheeze and many of the inhaler medications used in both conditions are the same or similar.

In their purest form, asthma patients have had symptoms since childhood. Asthma is caused by genetic influences that result in asthma symptoms. Commonly, patients are atopic or have allergies which will exacerbate their breathing problems. COPD patients are generally adults who develop symptoms of shortness of breath, cough, and wheeze later in life like in their 3rd-6th decade. COPD usually can be linked to a history of smoking tobacco.

The FDA in recent years has discouraged the development of long-acting bronchodilators (LABAs) for asthma and has placed a black box warning on medications which contain LABAs. Nevertheless, the most common treatments for both asthma and COPD are medications which contain both inhaled steroids and long acting bronchodilators (LABAs).

The asthma-chronic obstructive pulmonary disease overlap syndrome (ACOS) has been written about more in recent years. These patients show features of the asthma phenotype, have substantial exposure to cigarette smoke, and show fixed air flow obstruction. Your allergist at Allergy & Asthma Specialists can discuss your breathing problems with you, further your understanding, and treat your respiratory symptoms.

Allergy & Asthma Specialists, PA