Asthma Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment
Asthma symptoms can differ from person to person, but here are some of the most common symptoms:
- Wheezing. You may notice a wheezing sound when you breathe. This may only happen when you exercise or have a cold.
- Frequent Cough. This may be more common at night. You may or may not cough up mucus.
- Shortness of Breath. This is the feeling you can’t get enough air into your lungs. It may occur only once in a while or often.
- Chest Tightness. Your chest may feel tight, especially when you are exposed to cold weather or are exercising. This can also be the first sign of a flare-up.
Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. The sooner you begin treating and controlling your asthma, the less damage you will cause to your lungs in the long run. It is recommended that you work with your doctor to develop an Asthma Action Plan. It is a great place to record key information on your asthma medicines, triggers, symptoms and plans for an emergency.
What Causes Asthma?
The exact cause of asthma is not known. Scientists continue to explore what causes asthma, but we do know that these factors play an important role in the development of asthma:
- Genetics. Asthma tends to runs in families. If either of your parents have asthma, then you are more likely to have asthma too.
- Allergies. Some people are more likely to develop allergies than others, especially if either of your parents have allergies. Certain allergies are linked to people who get asthma.
- Respiratory Infections. As the lungs develop in infancy and early childhood, certain respiratory infections (i.e. colds, flu, sinus infections) have been shown to cause inflammation and can damage the lung tissue. The damage that is caused in infancy or early childhood can impact lung function long-term.
- Environment. Contact with allergens (i.e. pollen, animal dander, home pests like cockroaches), certain irritants or exposure to viral infections as an infant or in early childhood. Irritants such as smoke and air pollution may also play a significant role in adult-onset asthma.
How is Asthma Diagnosed?
If you experience any of the symptoms above, it is important to see your doctor to determine if you have asthma. You will be asked for some medical history, which should include family members with asthma, smoking history, allergies and whether or not you are exposed to pollutants in your workplace or at home. Your doctor will also perform a physical exam. There are also several breathing tests your doctor may perform. The most common test is called spirometry. Spirometry measures how much air you breathe in and out and how fast you blow it out. This will help your doctor to see how well your lungs are working. There are other lung diseases that may cause some of the same symptoms as asthma. If your doctor thinks you might have something else, he or she may order additional tests.
Is Asthma Serious?
Yes, asthma is a serious health problem. The good news is that it can be successfully managed. People with asthma can live normal, productive lives. It's important to find a doctor that you trust and feel comfortable visiting on a regular basis. Your doctor will work with you to help you manage your asthma. Without proper treatment, asthma can be extremely dangerous, even fatal.
After an asthma flare-up, you will probably feel tired. For several days after an episode, you are at increased risk of having another flare-up. For the next several days after a flare-up, be sure to:
- Avoid your asthma triggers
- Monitor your symptoms or check you airways using a peak flow meter
Poor asthma management can lead to airway remodeling. Airway remodeling is a serious condition that happens when asthma is untreated or poorly managed. The lungs become scarred, asthma medicines do not work as well, and less air is able to move through the airways. Airway remodeling does not have to happen. Stick to your Asthma Action Plan and take control of your asthma!
Once are diagnosed with asthma, you will be prescribed medicines to help control your asthma. Medicines prescribed to treat your asthma may seem difficult to understand and difficult to use. It is important that you work with your doctor on an asthma action plan designed specifically for your needs. An asthma action plan provides key information on when to take your medicines on a daily basis and what to do in an emergency. This will help you take control of your asthma so you can live a healthy and productive life.