PMID: 3964740Jan 1, 1985

Distinguishing among asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema

G L Snider


The history holds the central role in distinguishing among asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. A personal or family history of atopy, a history of seasonal worsening of disease in response to a known environmental agent, perhaps seasonal, and marked variability in the severity of airflow obstruction, often with dramatic responsiveness to bronchodilator drugs, strongly support the diagnosis of asthma. Exacerbation of wheezing by exposure to cold air or following the ingestion of a drug, and asthma variants, such as nocturnal cough responsive to bronchodilator agents or exercise-induced asthma, all support the diagnosis of asthma. Peripheral blood eosinophilia or sputum eosinophilia support the diagnosis of asthma providing other known causes of eosinophilia can be excluded. Positive skin tests are helpful in establishing the atopic state and indicating its possible etiology. An elevated serum IgE level supports the diagnosis of asthma; a normal one does not exclude it. Cigarette smoking is a common background factor in both chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and both diseases are infrequently observed in the absence of this history. Long-standing mucous hypersecretion preceding airflow obstruction suggests the presence of ...Continue Reading


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Differential Diagnosis
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