• Shruti GOCHHWAL

Difference between COPD and Asthma

COPD ( Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and asthma are the leading cause of mortality in the world. More than five million people are diagnosed with asthma or copd every year. Thus, the world copd day, observed on 20th November, aims to bring awareness to people about these debilitating respiratory conditions. These lung ailments, after afflicting a person, refuse to go away. Their symptoms worsen over time, especially in the case of COPD.

It is not easy for ordinary people to distinguish between asthma and COPD. It is mainly because both disorders affect the lungs in similar ways. But knowing the difference is crucial to treating them. Let’s look at therm in greater detail.

COPD vs Asthma – What Is It?

icd 10 for copd

A diagrammatic representation of human lungs, Credit: Pixabay


A lung disorder, COPD, is characterized by restricted lung airflow that makes breathing extremely difficult for patients. Symptoms include shortness of breath, frequent coughing, wheezing, and difficulty in doing various physical activities. These symptoms worsen with time. Presently, COPD is not curable. The patient is prone to developing various copd complications like heart failure, diabetes, and lung cancer.

The pathophysiology of copd begins with disruption to the airways and air sacs in the lungs. It progresses to mucous laden cough and the acute difficulty experienced during breathing.

Asthma is characterized by narrow lung airways that become inflamed. They cause bronchi spasms. Symptoms include difficulty in breathing from any allergy, chest tightness, and wheezing. Asthma can be reversed, unlike COPD, and the patient can be restored to their normal health with the right treatment.

The symptoms of both these respiratory disorders are similar. This makes it difficult to find out the difference between them.

Difference between COPD and Asthma

difference between copd and asthma

Person using inhaler, Credit: Pixabay


The difference between COPD and asthma mainly lies in the nature of the inflammation of the lungs. Other major ways in which they differ from each other are:

  1. Smoking is the leading cause of COPD, while asthma occurs due to an inflammatory allergic reaction.

  2. The onset of COPD is usually seen in people above 40 years of age. On the other hand, asthma can be seen in children and adults too.

  3. People with COPD experience more severe instances of difficulty in breathing. Asthmatic people also experience difficulty breathing, but not as severe as those with COPD. Besides, their breathing generally returns back to the normal more easily than in people with COPD.

  4. There is a higher production of mucous and phlegm in COPD patients than those with asthma.

  5. Asthmatic attacks are characterised by chest tightness and wheezing. This is not the case in COPD.

  6. Morning coughing and a large amount of phlegm that progressively deteriorates over time are the warning signs of COPD. On the other hand, attacks accompanied by eczema and allergies are the most common signs of asthma.

The icd 10 for copd is J44.9  The icd 10 for asthma is J45.909

Differential Treatment for COPD and Asthma

pathophysiology of copd

Doctor treating a person with lung disease, Credit: Pixabay


There are many options for treatment for both COPD ad asthma. However, treatment for COPD can only slow the progression of this respiratory disorder. It cannot cure it, unlike asthma, that can be managed and reversed.

Therapy for COPD involves the use of bronchodilators. In addition, vaccinations are also recommended by doctors. Changes in health-related behaviors like quitting smoking can help slow down the progression of this disease.

There are various drugs to manage asthma, like corticosteroids and anticholinergic medications. Doctors can also administer immunity shots. With healthy lifestyle changes, the lifespan of a person with asthma can be enhanced to that of an average person.

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