Copd Complications Asthma

It’s difficult to distinguish between COPD and asthma symptoms. Both conditions obstruct the airways and interfere with breathing. Asthma symptoms can also contribute to COPD, although COPD is usually caused by a combination of chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

The distinction between asthma symptoms and COPD is important, as treatment options are different for each disease. Generally speaking, asthma symptoms are more variable than COPD symptoms, coming and going as the individual is exposed to asthma triggers. COPD symptoms tend to be more consistent.

COPD vs. Asthma Symptoms

Age: Asthma symptoms can develop at any age, and often as early as childhood. In comparison, COPD symptoms are rarely apparent before age forty.

Nasal symptoms: Although both asthma and COPD affect the respiratory passages, COPD rarely presents with nasal symptoms. Sniffling, nasal discharge and irritated nasal passages are all common asthma symptoms.

Smoking: Eighty percent of COPD cases are linked to smoking. While asthma symptoms can be linked to smoking in some people, many nonsmokers are also asthmatic.

Triggers: Asthma symptoms often have a specific trigger. Possible triggers include colds, specific allergens, environmental pollutants, and even stress. Removing the trigger often improves asthma symptoms. While quitting smoking slows the rate of COPD lung deterioration, removing other triggers does not affect symptoms.

Wheezing: Asthma sufferers often wheeze as they breathe. COPD caused by chronic bronchitis may also cause wheezing, but lung sounds are difficult to detect in emphysema.

Reversible Asthma and Asthmatic COPD

Asthma lung close-up.Treatment results differ significantly between asthma and COPD. Many forms of asthma are considered reversible: symptoms can be controlled with adequate treatment. COPD treatments focus on reducing symptoms and slowing the progression of the disease.

In cases where asthma cannot be fully reversed, the condition may be referred to as asthmatic COPD. COPD and asthma can coexist, with each disease aggravating the others’ symptoms. Combinations of COPD and asthma are especially common in asthmatics who smoke.

Asthma Symptoms

More detailed information on asthma symptoms can be found at About Asthma.


American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. (nd). Tips to remember: What is a peak flow meter? Retrieved November 17, 2003, from