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Asthma vs COPD: What’s the Difference?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) affects more than 30 million Americans.

Mainly caused by cigarette smoking, COPD symptoms don’t usually become apparent until there is significant lung damage. In Florida alone, 7.1% of the population is affected by COPD.

With symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing, COPD is often misdiagnosed as asthma, a chronic disease that shares similar symptoms. In 2006 a research study published in the Journal of Asthma showed that more than half of COPD patients may have been misdiagnosed with asthma.

Similarly, Medical News Today reported that more than 40% of patients diagnosed and treated for COPD did not, in fact, have the disease.

Do you have COPD or Asthma?

COPD and asthma have to be diagnosed with the use of spirometry since symptoms alone are not sufficient to make a diagnosis. A spirometer is a tool that measures how much air you inhale and exhale. It also measures how quickly you exhale to assess how well your lungs work. The spirometry test can be used to diagnose asthma, COPD, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis and to periodically check the progress of your medication and breathing problems.

If you suffer from the following symptoms associated with COPD talk to your physician about the possibility of scheduling a spirometry test.

  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Having to clear your throat first thing in the morning, due to excess mucus in your lungs
  • A chronic cough that may produce mucus (sputum)
  • Blueness of the lips or fingernail beds (cyanosis)
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Lack of energy
  • Unintended weight loss (in later stages)
  • Swelling in ankles, feet or legs

If you’ve already been diagnosed with COPD or asthma, you may potentially qualify for currently enrolling research studies at Florida Pulmonary Research Institute. Qualified participants are seen at no cost by board-certified physicians and may receive access to new treatment options. Compensation is also available for those who participate. Choose your study to learn more.

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