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      Distinguishing adult-onset asthma from COPD: a review and a new approach

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          Abstract

          Adult-onset asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are major public health burdens. This review presents a comprehensive synopsis of their epidemiology, pathophysiology, and clinical presentations; describes how they can be distinguished; and considers both established and proposed new approaches to their management. Both adult-onset asthma and COPD are complex diseases arising from gene–environment interactions. Early life exposures such as childhood infections, smoke, obesity, and allergy influence adult-onset asthma. While the established environmental risk factors for COPD are adult tobacco and biomass smoke, there is emerging evidence that some childhood exposures such as maternal smoking and infections may cause COPD. Asthma has been characterized predominantly by Type 2 helper T cell (Th2) cytokine-mediated eosinophilic airway inflammation associated with airway hyperresponsiveness. In established COPD, the inflammatory cell infiltrate in small airways comprises predominantly neutrophils and cytotoxic T cells (CD8 positive lymphocytes). Parenchymal destruction (emphysema) in COPD is associated with loss of lung tissue elasticity, and small airways collapse during exhalation. The precise definition of chronic airflow limitation is affected by age; a fixed cut-off of forced expiratory volume in 1 second/forced vital capacity leads to overdiagnosis of COPD in the elderly. Traditional approaches to distinguishing between asthma and COPD have highlighted age of onset, variability of symptoms, reversibility of airflow limitation, and atopy. Each of these is associated with error due to overlap and convergence of clinical characteristics. The management of chronic stable asthma and COPD is similarly convergent. New approaches to the management of obstructive airway diseases in adults have been proposed based on inflammometry and also multidimensional assessment, which focuses on the four domains of the airways, comorbidity, self-management, and risk factors. Short-acting beta-agonists provide effective symptom relief in airway diseases. Inhalers combining a long-acting beta-agonist and corticosteroid are now widely used for both asthma and COPD. Written action plans are a cornerstone of asthma management although evidence for self-management in COPD is less compelling. The current management of chronic asthma in adults is based on achieving and maintaining control through step-up and step-down approaches, but further trials of back-titration in COPD are required before a similar approach can be endorsed. Long-acting inhaled anticholinergic medications are particularly useful in COPD. Other distinctive features of management include pulmonary rehabilitation, home oxygen, and end of life care.

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          Most cited references 135

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          Global strategy for the diagnosis, management, and prevention of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. NHLBI/WHO Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) Workshop summary.

           ,  Suzanne Hurd,  P Calverley (2001)
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            Immunology of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

             Peter Barnes (2008)
            Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are both obstructive airway diseases that involve chronic inflammation of the respiratory tract, but the type of inflammation is markedly different between these diseases, with different patterns of inflammatory cells and mediators being involved. As described in this Review, these inflammatory profiles are largely determined by the involvement of different immune cells, which orchestrate the recruitment and activation of inflammatory cells that drive the distinct patterns of structural changes in these diseases. However, it is now becoming clear that the distinction between these diseases becomes blurred in patients with severe asthma, in asthmatic subjects who smoke and during acute exacerbations. This has important implications for the development of new therapies.
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              Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in non-smokers.

              Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Tobacco smoking is established as a major risk factor, but emerging evidence suggests that other risk factors are important, especially in developing countries. An estimated 25-45% of patients with COPD have never smoked; the burden of non-smoking COPD is therefore much higher than previously believed. About 3 billion people, half the worldwide population, are exposed to smoke from biomass fuel compared with 1.01 billion people who smoke tobacco, which suggests that exposure to biomass smoke might be the biggest risk factor for COPD globally. We review the evidence for the association of COPD with biomass fuel, occupational exposure to dusts and gases, history of pulmonary tuberculosis, chronic asthma, respiratory-tract infections during childhood, outdoor air pollution, and poor socioeconomic status.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                International Journal of COPD
                International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
                Dove Medical Press
                1176-9106
                1178-2005
                2014
                09 September 2014
                : 9
                : 945-962
                Affiliations
                [1 ]School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
                [2 ]Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
                [3 ]Department of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine, Austin Health, Heidelberg, Australia
                [4 ]Priority Research Centre for Asthma and Respiratory Disease, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Michael J Abramson, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, The Alfred Centre, Melbourne, VIC 3004, Australia, Tel +61 3 9903 0573, Fax +61 3 9903 0556, Email michael.abramson@ 123456monash.edu
                Article
                copd-9-945
                10.2147/COPD.S46761
                4166213
                © 2014 Abramson et al. This work is published by Dove Medical Press Limited, and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License

                The full terms of the License are available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.

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