Differences between COPD and asthma

Although COPD and asthma are both respiratory diseases characterized by underlying inflammation, the nature of the inflammation is quite different in each case.

In COPD, inflammation is characterized by inflammatory cells such as neutrophils, CD8+ T-lymphocytes and macrophages and the disease is associated with airflow limitation that is not fully reversible.1,2

In asthma, airflow limitation is often fully reversible, either spontaneously or with treatment and has a different profile of inflammatory cells, namely eosinophils and CD4+ T-lymphocytes.

In COPD, both the airways and lung parenchyma are affected by the disease and airflow limitation is progressive. However, in asthma only the airways are affected. Asthma is usually present from childhood, whereas COPD is predominantly diagnosed in patients >40 years old.2



  1. Sciurba FC. Physiologic similarities and differences between COPD and asthma. Chest 2004:126;117S-126S.
  2. Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD): Global Strategy for the Diagnosis, Management, and Prevention of COPD. 2013. www.goldcopd.org

Risk factors for COPD

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