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How Does COPD Differ from Asthma?
2. Exacerbations of asthma -- characterized by recurrent wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and cough -- often have identifiable triggers such as allergens, cold air or exercise. However, exacerbations in COPD patients are commonly caused by respiratory tract infections.
3. With treatment, asthma patients have near-normal lung function and are symptom-free between exacerbations. COPD patients rarely experience a day without symptoms. Airflow obstruction in COPD sufferers is only partially reversible with smoking cessation and bronchodilator use.
Despite these distinctions, COPD is often misdiagnosed, and persons with COPD are treated instead for asthma. In fact, a survey of 75 primary care physicians revealed that they prescribe similar medications for COPD and asthma even though the appropriate treatments differ. The first-line maintenance therapy for most patients with asthma is an inhaled corticosteroid, with the addition of a bronchodilator if needed to control symptoms. However, the reverse is true for the treatment of COPD. Bronchodilators are the first-line maintenance treatment for COPD. Treatment with inhaled corticosteroids is reserved only for selected patients whose COPD is not adequately managed with bronchodilators. Survey findings also showed that primary care physicians had a low basis of suspicion for COPD.
Bronchodilators are the first-line maintenance treatment for COPD.