Key Difference – Asthma vs Wheezing
The key difference between asthma and wheezing is, wheezing is the musical polyphonic sound caused by partial narrowing of smaller airways while asthma is a condition which is demarcated by reversible smaller airway obstructions due to recurrent bronchospasms. Therefore, the hallmark of Asthma is intermittent wheezing episodes. However, in Asthma, wheezing is accompanied by other symptoms such as chest tightness.
What is Asthma?
Asthma is defined as reversible intermittent bronchospasms. It is an allergic disease. Some people have a tendency to develop allergic reactions to various environmental substances (allergens). When the allergy-prone person is exposed to an allergen, a set of undesirable reactions is produced by the immune system. This is considered as hypersensitivity. It causes the release of various chemical mediators such as histamines. They are potent reactors and cause very rapid and severe bronchospasms leading to episodes of wheezing. Pathologically, chronic inflammation is also seen in the bronchial walls of these patients. There are different categories of Asthma such as childhood Asthma, cough variant Asthma, occupational related Asthma, etc. Cold air, house dust mite, pollen have been identified as common allergens among most Asthma patients. The frequency and the severity of the wheezing episodes can vary among Asthma patients, and some Asthma attacks show a seasonal pattern as well. Some severe episodes are categorized as life threatening Asthma and silent chest, which need immediate medical attention. Asthma is diagnosed by the clinical history and confirmed with Peak Expiratory Flowmetry.
Asthma is treated with symptom controllers (beta agonists such as salbutamol) and preventers (steroids such as beclomethasone). Symptom controllers are used during wheezing episodes while steroids as used on a regular basis to prevent episodes. Most of these medicines are administrated via inhalers or by nebulization. Prevention of the exposure to the allergens is equally important in preventing Asthma episodes. A lot of social and psychological support is needed for Asthma patients. With properly controlled symptoms, they can have an almost normal life. Compliance with the treatment is very important to control disease in Asthma patients. Recurrent Asthma can affect education in children and the work in adults.
What is wheezing?
Wheezing is the polyphonic musical sound caused due to bronchospasms. There are many causes of wheezing. Some examples include allergens, noxious gasses, smoking, etc. There isn’t much difference between the treatment of wheezing and treatment of asthma. However, if a patient is getting recurrent wheezing episodes, proper medical evaluation is needed to exclude Asthma or Chronic Obstructive Airway Disease, which is a condition seen in long standing smokers. Wheezing is an alarming symptom in children. However, if treatment is given immediately, it can be controlled very quickly.
What is the difference between Asthma and Wheezing?
Definition of Asthma and Wheezing
Asthma: Asthma is a condition which is demarcated by reversible smaller airway obstructions due to recurrent bronchospasms
Wheezing: Wheezing is the is the musical polyphonic sound caused by partial narrowing of smaller airways
Characteristics of Asthma and Wheezing
Wheezing: Wheezing is caused by bronchial hypersensitivity.
Asthma: Asthma is marked by the chronic inflammatory response of the airways in addition to bronchial wall hypersensitivity.
Wheezing: Wheezing is a symptom.
Asthma: Asthma is a disease.
Wheezing: Wheezing can be diagnosed by listening to the chest via stethoscope.
Asthma: Asthma can be diagnosed by the clinical history and confirmed with Peak Expiratory Flow Meter.
Asthma: Asthma is caused by exposure to allergens of a vulnerable patient.
Wheezing: Wheezing can be caused by many other factors such as smoking, noxious gasses.
Wheezing: Just a single episode of wheezing need only symptomatic treatment.
Asthma: Asthma needs long-term treatment until the symptoms are well controlled.Image Courtesy: “Asthma triggers 2” by 7mike5000 – Own work. (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons “Doctor uses a stethoscope to examine a young patient” by Unknown – http://www.defenseimagery.mil; VIRIN: DA-ST-85-12888. (Public Domain) via Wikimedia Commons