Asthma And Emphysema Specialist

James B. Cordell, MD, in La Jolla, San Diego, works as a primary care physician and specialist in internal medicine, so he sees plenty of chronic respiratory conditions, including asthma and emphysema. In fact, it takes a seasoned specialist to understand the difference between these two similar diseases and develop customized treatment plans to manage them. That type of focused attention to the needs of his patients is what makes Dr. Cordell stand out in the San Diego medical community.

Asthma and Emphysema Q & A

What is asthma?

Asthma is a very diverse illness that affects people of all ages. If you have asthma, the airways that allow air to enter and exit your lungs become narrow due to swelling and mucus build up, and it becomes hard to breathe. It's unclear why this happens to some people and not others, but the current theory is it's a combination of genetics and environmental triggers.

The key to managing asthma is to try to prevent the attacks by using preventative medications, identifying and avoiding potential triggers for the attack, and in some cases allergy desensitization.

Common asthma triggers include:

  • Pollen
  • Dust mites
  • Mold spores
  • Pet dander
  • Smoke
  • Stress
  • Preservatives in foods

Avoiding triggers can reduce the risk of an asthma attack.

What is emphysema?

Like asthma, emphysema can make it difficult to breathe, but this condition affects the air sacs in the lungs instead of the airways. The air sacs inflate with each breath, allowing oxygen to enter the bloodstream from the air. When a person exhales, the sacs deflate. With emphysema, the inner walls of these sacs weaken and even rupture, reducing the surface area of the lungs, so less oxygen gets through.

There is a direct connection between cigarette smoking and emphysema, but long-term exposure to any pollutant or irritant, such as chemical fumes or even dust, has the same effect. For example, emphysema often affects people who spend their days working around cars or near chemicals.

How are asthma and emphysema different?

The symptoms of these two problems seem very similar, especially in the early stages of emphysema. They both might include occasional shortness of breath. Emphysema is a progressive disease, though, so the difficulty will get worse over time. Asthma, on the other hand, is ongoing and chronic but episodic, so you only have symptoms when exposed to triggers.

How will Dr. Cordell diagnose these conditions?

To find out if you have asthma or emphysema, Dr. Cordell will give you tests to get a clear picture of your lungs and airways, such as spirometry and imaging. He’ll also listen to your lungs and take the time to learn about your lifestyle and medical history.


Our practice accepts most PPO plans and several commercial HMO and Medicare Advantage HMO plans.

We also accept Medicare assignment. This means that we accept the determination of Medicare about the charges for covered services. Medicare pays 80% of this fee after your yearly deductible. We accept almost all Medicare supplement plans, except Medi-Cal.

If you have any questions regarding insurance providers, please call our office.

Anthem Blue Cross
Blue Shield
United Healthcare

Words from our patients

  • RateMDs

    "Extremely knowledgeable and always very professional. Dr. Cordell is one of the finest doctors that I have met. I could not recommend him highly enough."

    Verified Patient
  • Vitals

    "I have been a patient of Dr. Cordell's for over ten years. He has successfully treated me for a number of severe illnesses, some of which could have been terminal."

    Verified Patient
  • Vitals

    "He continuously monitors my diabetes and doesn't hesitate to refer me to a specialist when needed. Staff is always courteous and helpful. I would highly recommend him."

    Verified Patient
  • Vitals

    "He listened very carefully and even drew diagrams to further explain my condition. I have confidence in him."

    Verified Patient
  • RateMDs

    "Got right in same day if needed and staff was very helpful with insurance... Doctor was excellent with great expertise."

    Verified Patient
James Cordell, MD
9850 Genesee Ave., Suite 430
La Jolla, CA 92037
Phone: 858-452-7320
Fax: 858-452-9276
Office Hours

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