Is asthma the same as COPD? The simple answer is no, although the two can overlap. In other words, it is possible to have a component of both.
The main difference between the two is that COPD is airway obstruction that is not reversible, or not fully; whereas, most cases of asthma can be reversed. There is a fair percentage of people with asthma that cross over the boundary into COPD. In some individuals, years of asthma flare-ups and lung irritation can cause permanent changes in the lungs, leading to COPD.
Asthma is a chronic disease that affects your airways. The airways are the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. With asthma, the inside walls of your airways are inflamed or swollen. The inflammation makes the airways very sensitive, causing you to react strongly to things that you are allergic to or find irritating. When the airways react, they get narrower and less air flows through to your lung tissue. This reaction causes symptoms like wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and troubled breathing, especially at night and in the early morning. Asthma cannot be cured; however, most people with asthma can control it so that they have few and infrequent symptoms and can live active lives.
As a general rule, you should consult with a lung professional when you are experiencing breathing problems. It could rule out a COPD diagnosis, or maybe indicate that something else is wrong.
You should also consider being tested for Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (Alpha-1), a genetic form of COPD inherited from both parents. (Keep in mind that even if a parent didnt have symptoms, he or she may still have passed the Alpha-1 gene on to you).Another source of help and information is the C.O.P.D. Information Line, 1-866-316-COPD (2673). It is staffed by individuals who have COPD and who are well equipped to answer your questions. The Information Line is open from 9AM to 9PM (EST) Monday through Friday.