What’s the difference between COPD and asthma?

close-up of a young woman using an inhalerBecause asthma and COPD have similar symptoms, it can be difficult to distinguish between the two conditions.

Respiratory Physician Professor Peter Bremner says airway narrowing occurs in both diseases and sometimes people with COPD also have asthma.

“The inflammatory process leading to airway narrowing differs between asthma and COPD,” Professor Bremner says.

“Furthermore, in emphysema, there is destruction of the lung tissue.”

“Asthma is typically diagnosed at a younger age, whereas COPD more commonly presents itself in those over 45.”

Your doctor can give you a lung function test to determine if you have COPD or asthma. This test can also assess the severity of airway narrowing, which in turn aids in the choice of treatments.

If you have just been diagnosed with COPD, Professor Bremner recommends:

  • stopping smoking
  • seeing a doctor and being honest about your smoking
  • understanding how your medicines work and learn how to take them correctly
  • making a plan with your doctor so you know what to do if your COPD suddenly becomes severe
  • maintaining a healthy diet
  • keeping active and learning how to exercise safely

Support Organisations
Lung Foundation Australia
1800 654 301

Living with COPD – A Patient Guide

Institute for Respiratory Health 
9346 3198

The Asthma Foundation
1800 278 462

Resources to help you quit smoking
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for more information, including advice, support and information on the best and most appropriate quit medication for you.

Quitline 13 7848
www.quitnow.gov.au
www.quit.org.au/preparing-to-quit/choosing-best-way-to-quit/quitcoach
www.quit.org.au

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