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Disease & Conditions

Asthma

How is asthma diagnosed?

The first step is for you to tell your doctor about your signs and symptoms as well as your medical and family history and the environment you live in. You should also tell your doctor if you smoke. All this will help your doctor make the diagnosis.

Your doctor can confirm that you have asthma with a simple breathing test called spirometry. Spirometry measures how much air you have in your lungs and how fast you can blow it all out. If you have asthma, it will take longer for you to blow out all the air.

Only a doctor can diagnose asthma. Other conditions such as pneumonia, cystic fibrosis, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have to be ruled out before your doctor can be certain that you have asthma.

It is not fully known why some people get asthma and others do not. Asthma may worsen after contact with something in the environment that causes the airways to swell. There are a number of possible causes, such as:

  • Contact with things that you are allergic or sensitive to
  • Contact with certain chemicals at work that cause “occupational asthma”
  • A bad lung infection that makes the airways very sensitive

 

What are the symptoms of asthma?

The common signs and symptoms of asthma are:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Trouble sleeping because of breathing difficulty
  • Being unable to take part in physical activities

You may have all of these signs and symptoms, or only a few. Not everyone wheezes and many just cough. These signs and symptoms come and go and are usually triggered by something in the environment.

Symptoms of asthma may come and go; you may experience some of them and yet not know for certain whether you’ve got asthma or not. For example, you might experience trouble breathing with exercise or get more “chest” infections than other people do.

The important thing to remember is that asthma is a “variable” disease. In other words, the symptoms can vary from person to person, and even the same person’s condition may fluctuate throughout the year.

Persistent cough is a common sign of lung disease. Coughing is a major feature of asthma, especially in children. If your infant or child coughs to the point of vomiting, discuss the possibility of asthma with your doctor. There are reasons other than asthma for a long-term cough, like whooping cough and postnasal drip.

 

How is asthma treated?

When it comes to understanding all of the new asthma treatments available, it’s natural to feel a little confused. The most common treatments are inhaled medications (medications that you breathe into your lungs). Some of these medications can open up narrowed airways; others decrease inflammation. Your doctor will prescribe the medications that are best for you. It is important that you take these medications the way that the doctor prescribed.

 

Where can I learn more about asthma?

 

What do I need to talk to my doctor about?

Being able to communicate well with your doctor will help you receive the best care possible. Doctors see many patients every day and have limited time with each patient. They can better care for someone who is prepared. You should be able to describe your symptoms and tell your doctor how bad they are and how often you have them.

Your doctor may tell you to do several things, but they might not work in your daily life. Remember that your doctor will not know the challenges of your day unless you tell them. Be straightforward and honest when you talk with your doctor so he can help you figure out the steps you should take.

 

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