Particularly in smokers and older adults, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and asthma can sometimes be difficult to distinguish. According to the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease, Asthma COPD Overlap Syndrome (ACOS) is characterized by “persistent airflow limitation with several features usually associated with asthma and several features usually associated with COPD.” Patients with asthma usually experience symptoms that start in childhood, while patients with COPD typically don’t experience symptoms until after the age of 40, when chronic changes have set in. Given a number of other variables, a physician may describe the condition as ACOS (Asthma COPD Overlap Syndrome) if a patient diagnosed at 40 also recalls experiencing symptoms in childhood or early adulthood.
Differences Between Asthma and COPD
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), about 18.7 million adults in America have asthma, which accounts for about eight percent of all adults, varying from about four to nine percent of the adult population in different states. The highest percentage is among those along the lower Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. With asthma, excessive spasm of the airways leading to acute bronchial narrowing makes breathing more difficult. Asthma bouts tend to be episodic and are often triggered by physical activity, emotions, or allergies. In between episodes, asthmatic patients tend to look and sound normal with few, if any, symptoms. Those suffering from COPD, on the other hand, tend to have fluctuating symptoms with better or worse days. Generally, however, COPD tends to be a persistent problem that gradually worsens over time. COPD is most often tied to smoking, especially with anti-trypsin deficiency, exposure to bad working conditions like smog and airborne particles, and recurrent pulmonary infections.
Treatment Options for ACOS
Medications typically used for treatment of asthma and COPD overlap, and a physician prescribes the medications most relevant to an individual patient’s symptoms and condition. Various combinations of medications help with broncho-dilatation and opening up the bronchial passages; while a few preparations reduce inflammation and mucus production. There is some debate about whether inhaled corticosteroids are beneficial in the treatment of COPD, but their benefits with asthma sufferers are often noteworthy. The biggest advantage of this diagnosis is that a physician does not have to worry about misdiagnosing asthma as COPD or vice versa. Tracking the treatment choices and results of patients who do not fall clearly into either category allows physicians to more easily categorize and compare similar cases and evaluate the effectiveness of treatments.
Stem Cell Therapy
Our protocols for asthma and COPD are similar and include a combination of intravenous and nebulized Stromal Vascular Fraction (SVF) delivery. SVF is effectively tissue juice in which stem cells, growth factors and cytokines abound. Treatment is an outpatient procedure with harvest of only two-ounces of fat from the waistline, performed under local anesthesia. The whole procedure takes less than three hours. Because they originate from adipose (fatty) tissue, stem cells and growth factors are easily accessible without the controversial use of embryonic stem cells or the lengthy process of removing and culturing stem cells from bone marrow. The effectiveness of stem cell therapy for COPD is still being evaluated, but because the cells are extracted from the patient’s own tissue, there is no risk of rejection and very little risk of any complication. Stem cell treatment works by repairing damaged lung tissue to improve lung function. As with any significant procedure, it is important to consult with your primary care physician, particularly if you use an inhaler for exacerbations of asthma. Stem cell treatment is not intended to be a substitute for traditional medicine, when it works; nor for patients who have difficulty breathing, who have not been diagnosed. To learn more about our treatment options and protocol, and how our research examines the possibility of long-term improvement, contact the Gulf Coast Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine Center in Ocean Springs, MS.