What is the difference between: Emphysema, COPD, Asthma, and Chronic Bronchitis?


Emphysema is a disease of the lung in which the alveoli are destroyed. The capillary vessels that aid in transporting blood and air through the lungs become destroyed with the alveolar walls. As the person takes a breath in, the vessels and alveoli become compressed. This restricts the flow of air through the lungs, causing the person to become short of breath. The primary cause of emphysema is smoking. This is a disease that is preventable.

However, there are some genetic causes of emphysema that include alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency according to www.onhealth.com. One of the common symptoms of the disease is shortness of breath. Coughing is also associated with the condition. These two symptoms will progressively worsen until something is done to help treat the condition. One might notice getting short of breath while walking or performing everyday activities in the early stages of emphysema. A physical examination normally detects the disease. It is not completely treatable, but emphysema can be controlled with medications. If the disease is at the later stages, the person may need oxygen in order to maintain normal levels.


This is a condition that is also preventable. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is one of the most common diseases associated with the lungs. The two forms of the disease are emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

One of the reasons many people develop COPD is from smoking. As the person smokes more, the chances of that person developing COPD increase. NIH.gov states that some people can smoke their entire life and never develop COPD. Other causes of the condition include exposure to certain chemicals, exposure to secondhand smoke and using fire in the home without the proper ventilation.

Most people who develop COPD notice a cough that becomes worse with time. There could be mucus associated with the cough. Many people become tired from doing everyday activities. Wheezing is another symptom that is associated with COPD.

A test with a spirometer can detect COPD. The person will blow into a machine that will measure the capacity of the lungs. The person typically sits in a chair while the test is conducted so that there is no exercise or drawing blood involved. Unfortunately, there is no cure for COPD. One who does develop the disease is advised to stop smoking as soon as possible. Inhalers can be prescribed as well as medications that are used to treat the symptoms.


Asthma is a condition related to the lungs that people of any age can have. It often develops in children and can last until they are adults. There are ways to treat asthma, but there is no cure. The airways of the lungs become inflamed and narrow causing the person to wheeze and cough. This is heightened when the person exercises and performs strenuous activities. There are times when someone can simply walk in a store and become out of breath from the condition.

The NIH states that asthma affects over 25 million people in the United States. As the airways in the lungs constrict when breathing, the muscles can become tighter in someone with asthma. This causes a decrease in air flow. Mucus can also build up in the airways of the lungs. Sometimes these symptoms are noticed, and there are times when the person might not notice anything.

An inhaler is usually prescribed so that the person can use it when feeling short of breath. Symptoms can go away for months or years, but there are times when symptoms in a person can get worse. At times, an asthma attack can be fatal. If an inhaler is not working, then the person should be taken to an emergency room as soon as possible.

Chronic Bronchitis

According to www.medicinenet.com, chronic bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes. This inflammation leads to a buildup of mucus, causing the person to cough. In order to diagnose the condition, the person will have a cough with production that lasts for three months over the course of two years. Smoking is the leading cause of chronic bronchitis. An X-ray can be used to detect the condition. The person can also undergo a pulmonary exam. Steroids, inhalers and oxygen therapy are often used to treat the condition. The person is also advised to stop smoking as this will only irritate the condition.

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