Feature Article

Differentiating COPD and asthma: is it worth the effort?

Feature Article

Differentiating COPD and asthma: is it worth the effort?

Peter Frith

Abstract

The treatments of COPD and asthma were previously centred on symptom relief using bronchodilators. Increased understanding of the two conditions has led to therapy becoming much more condition-specific, and the two conditions should be differentiated to enable best treatment.

Key Points

  • COPD and asthma are common and often underdiagnosed and misdiagnosed in adults.
  • The symptoms of COPD develop slowly and may be attributed to ageing or other causes.
  • It is important to differentiate between COPD and asthma because the treatment approaches differ.
  • Spirometry is an underused resource that supplements good history taking in distinguishing between the conditions.
  • The various drugs used to relieve the symptoms of asthma and COPD are not equally effective in the two conditions.