Skip to main content

Airflow obstruction: Is it asthma or is it COPD?

Citations of this article
Mendeley users who have this article in their library.


Despite the availability of guideline recommendations, diagnostic confusion between COPD and asthma appears common, and often it is very difficult to decide whether the obstruction is caused by asthma or COPD in a patient with airway obstruction. However, there are well-defined features that help in differentiating asthma from COPD in the presence of fixed airflow obstruction. Nonetheless, the presentations of asthma and COPD can converge and mimic each other, making it difficult to give these patients a diagnosis of either condition. The association of asthma and COPD in the same patient has been designated mixed asthma–COPD phenotype or overlap syndrome. However, since the absence of a clear definition and the inclusion of patients with different characteristics under this umbrella term, it may not facilitate treatment decisions, especially in the absence of clinical trials addressing this heterogeneous population. We are realizing that neither asthma nor COPD are single diseases, but rather syndromes consisting of several endotypes and phenotypes, consequently comprising a spectrum of diseases that must be recognized and adequately treated with targeted therapy. Therefore, we must treat patients by personalizing therapy on the basis of those treatable traits present in each subject.




Rogliani, P., Ora, J., Puxeddu, E., & Cazzola, M. (2016, November 30). Airflow obstruction: Is it asthma or is it COPD? International Journal of COPD. Dove Medical Press Ltd.

Register to see more suggestions

Mendeley helps you to discover research relevant for your work.

Already have an account?

Save time finding and organizing research with Mendeley

Sign up for free