The Two Main Types of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

woman experiencing chest pain

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  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is generally categorized into two types, chronic bronchitis and emphysema
  • Knowing the difference between the three will allow you to craft a proper treatment and prevention program with the help of your doctor

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is generally categorized into two types, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, which will be discussed in this article. In some cases, asthma is considered a subtype of COPD, but what makes it different from the first two? Find out the distinction between all three  below.

Chronic Bronchitis Affects Your Windpipes

The first common type of COPD is chronic bronchitis. Your bronchi (or bronchial tubes) are responsible for bringing air into your lungs, allowing your body to receive oxygen. However, when they become inflamed due to an infection, you develop a condition known as bronchitis, and repeated bouts of it is classified as a chronic disease. Here are symptoms you need to watch out for:1

Smoking is generally attributed as one of the top causes of chronic bronchitis, as well as exposure to lung irritants while working certain jobs. In other cases, having a poor-functioning immune system can make your bronchial tubes more susceptible to infections, leading to chronic symptoms of bronchitis.2

Pulmonary Emphysema Targets Your Alveoli

The second type of COPD is called pulmonary emphysema, a condition that attacks your air sacs (alveoli).3 The alveoli are found at the end of the air pathways and their role is to deliver oxygen into the bloodstream while simultaneously removing carbon dioxide.4

Once the alveoli become damaged, emphysema occurs. The cellular walls of the air sacs begins to lose their elasticity, making breathing difficult. Your nails or lips may turn blue as well, which happens due to lack of oxygen in your bloodstream.5 In addition, air trapping may occur, a phenomenon wherein your body has problems expelling air from your lungs. This explains why those who have emphysema generally have trouble exhaling.6

Asthma Occurs Due to Environmental Triggers

Asthma is generally mistaken for COPD, while some consider it to be a classification of it. To add to the confusion, 40 percent of people who have COPD also have asthma, which is why it’s important to distinguish each disease properly so that you can use the proper treatment accordingly.7

Asthma is generally caused by environmental triggers, such as dust, allergens and cold air, as well as exercising. In essence, it is an inflammatory reaction caused by exposure to thesetriggers, causing shortness of breath.8 Similar to COPD, asthma has no known cure. However, the main difference is that it can be controlled and there’s even a chance that you may outgrow it.9

Know the Distinctions Between These Respiratory Diseases

Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are caused by gradual destruction of lung tissue, thus causing the telltale indicators of COPD. Asthma, on the other hand, is caused by exposure to allergens and other triggers from your environment.

Knowing the difference between the three will allow you to craft a proper treatment and prevention program with the help of your doctor. Therefore, it is important that you educate yourself properly especially if you are currently experiencing symptoms of COPD.

Coughing

Appearance of sputum, which may be clear, white, yellowish gray or green

Fatigue

Shortness of breath

Chest discomfort

Slight fever and chills

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COPD Symptoms

COPD Causes

COPD Stages

Types of COPD

COPD Treatment

COPD Life Expectancy

COPD Prevention

COPD Diet

COPD FAQ

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