What is the difference between COPD and asthma?

Both COPD and asthma are chronic diseases affecting the lung. However, they are very different conditions.

Asthma is characterised by a reversible narrowing of the small airway tubes in the lungs. There is often an identifiable trigger (e.g: dust, pollen, exercise) which causes an asthma “attack”. During an attack, the airways constrict and produce lots of sticky mucus which makes it incredibly difficult for the person to breath. Asthma can affect people of any age, however is very common in children and young adults.

Asthma attack illustration

In contrast, COPD is a gradual irreversible obstruction of airflow in and out of the lungs which normally affects older people. COPD patients can suffer ‘attacks’, however these are known as COPD exacerbations and often last for days. You can find out more about COPD on our page – What is COPD?