How To Get A Diagnosis
The first thing to do is book an appointment. Your GP or an asthma nurse can help confirm or rule out a diagnosis of asthma.
They can do this by:
- talking about your symptoms, what sets them off, and when you get them
- asking if anyone else in the family has asthma
- finding out if you, or anyone in your family, have other allergies, like hay fever
- testing how your lungs are working
- listening to your chest for any sounds of wheezing
- prescribing asthma treatments to see if they make a difference
- considering any other symptoms that might suggest something else.
Alongside a full clinical assessment by your GP, youll need some asthma tests to confirm or rule out asthma. Your GP can see how your lungs are working with tests like peak flow, spirometry, and FeNo .
Your GP can usually perform these tests during the appointment, and you can see the results straight away. But you may need to do tests again on another day before your GP can confirm you have asthma.
You may be given a peak flow meter to use at home for a couple of weeks. This is so you can record your own peak flow scores in a diary.
When you take it back to your appointment, your GP or asthma nurse will be able to see a pattern of scores that could suggest asthma.
Trying out asthma treatments
Your GP or asthma nurse may prescribe asthma treatments to see if they help. This is sometimes called a trial of treatment.
If your symptoms start to get better, it suggests you could have asthma.
If Your Asthma Symptoms Are Caused By Allergies Take Steps To Control Knownor Potential Triggers In Your Environment
Allergy-proof your house for dust, mold, cockroaches, and other common indoor allergens to which you are allergic.
Reduce your outdoor activities when the pollen count or ozone level is high.
Choose foods that dont contribute to your asthma or allergy symptoms.
Evaluate your workplace for possible allergens and take the necessary steps to reduce your exposure to them.
In order to determine relevant triggers, you may want to seek consultation with an allergist who can further define these triggers.
In addition, anyone with asthma should consider getting an annual flu shot. Older adults also should talk with their internist about getting a pneumonia vaccination.
How Is Asthma Treated
Asthma can be controlled, but there’s no asthma cure. There are, however, certain goals in asthma treatment. If you are unable to achieve all of these goals, it means your asthma is not under control. You should contact your asthma care provider for help with asthma.
Treatment goals include the following:
- Live an active, normal life
- Prevent chronic and troublesome symptoms
- Attend work or school every day
- Perform daily activities without difficulty
- Stop urgent visits to the doctor, emergency room, or hospital
- Use and adjust medications to control asthma with little or no side effects
Properly using asthma medication, as prescribed by your doctor, is the basis of good asthma control, in addition to avoiding triggers and monitoring daily asthma symptoms. There are two main types of asthma medications:
Asthma medications can be taken by inhaling the medications or by swallowing oral medications . If you are also taking drugs for other conditions, you should work with your providers to check drug interactions and simplify medications when possible.
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Cats And Other Animals
Because of its small size, this allergen is predominantly an airborne, indoor type. Avoidance involves removing animals from the home , using dense filtering material over heating and cooling duct vents, and washing cats and dogs as often as twice weekly. Antigen may remain in a home for 6 months or more after cats are removed from the home, and cat antigen may be found in homes and offices where cats were never present, highlighting the importance of frequent cleaning.
Asthma Uk Is Here To Support You
We also have lots of tips on living with asthma, from doing sports and going on holiday, to studying with asthma and having relationships.
Explore our health advice web pages and . The more you know about your asthma, the better youll be able to work with your GP or asthma nurse to manage it well.
Speak to someone about your asthma
You can also call our Helpline on 0300 222 5800 to speak to a respiratory nurse specialist. Or you can WhatsApp them on 0307378 606 728.
You can ask them anything from symptoms and treatments to living life without asthma getting in the way.
Next review due February 2024
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Symptoms Like Coughing Wheezing And Feeling Breathless Could Mean You Have Asthma See Your Gp To Confirm A Diagnosis Of Asthma And Start Treatment
- tightness in the chest
- feeling short of breath.
Not everyone with asthma will get all of these. For example, not everyone wheezes. But if youre experiencing one or more of these symptoms, make an appointment with your GP.
Most people with well-managed asthma only have symptoms now and then. But some people have symptoms a lot of the time, particularly the small percentage of people with severe asthma.
A key thing with asthma is that symptoms come and go – you may not have them all the time.
Why its important to see your GP to confirm a diagnosis
If youve noticed asthma-like symptoms, dont ignore them. Make an appointment with your GP or an asthma nurse as soon as you can.
The quicker you get diagnosed, the quicker you can get the right medicines to help you deal with your symptoms.
Asthma is a long-term condition that needs regular preventer treatment. If its not treated, it could lead to an asthma attack which can be life-threatening.
Keep Taking Prescribed Medications
Long-term controller medications may also help treat your asthma and prevent symptoms from returning. Its important not to stop taking your prescribed medications even if your symptoms are better.
If you stop taking your medications as prescribed, this could cause your symptoms to return at a higher severity, leading to an over-reliance on fast-acting inhalers and other rescue medications.
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Causes Of Shortness Of Breath
Heart and lung conditions cause most cases of shortness of breath. You may feel shortness of breath for many reasons. Factors can include your overall health, medical history, and genetics. Talk to a health care provider to find out more about why you feel shortness of breath.
Acute Shortness of Breath
Acute shortness of breath can come on suddenly and last for a short period of time. Causes include:
- Increased fluid around the heart
- Panic attacks
Chronic Shortness of Breath
Shortness of breath can also be chronic, meaning it lasts for several weeks or longer. Causes include:
Risk Factors And Age Of Onset
Smoking is the biggest risk factorabout 85 to 90% of cases of COPD are caused by cigarette smoking, according to the American Lung Association.
But some people who develop COPD have never smoked. Specialists like Neil Schachter, MD, a professor of pulmonary medicine and the medical director of the respiratory care department at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, pointed to exposure to pollution, dust, poor air quality, and secondhand smoke as other significant risk factors.
According to the National Library of Medicine, COPD is a long-term condition, and it’s most commonly diagnosed after the age of 40. It can emerge in early adulthood in some people, though, particularly those with a genetic predisposition. A history of asthma can also increase the risk.
In addition, women are more likely than men to have COPD and are more likely to die as a result, according to the CDC.
Learn what to expect regarding COPD risk at different stages in your life, and get advice on prevention and management.
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Getting The Diagnosis Correct
One man in his 60s ended up going to Wechslers Cohen Family Asthma Institute at NJH after seeing two physicians who had incorrectly diagnosed him with COPD.
The man had been coughing and wheezing, and became short of breath, Wechsler said. The doctors gave him a rescue inhaler, but they did not treat him for ongoing airway inflammation.
When the man failed to improve, he went to NJH, underwent a series of sophisticated tests, and was correctly diagnosed with asthma.
To define if a patient has asthma, we do a pulmonary test, spirometry, to determine if there is any airflow obstruction consistent with asthma, and then assess the degree of reversibility, Wechsler said. If we see asthmatic symptoms plus airflow reversibility, we can assess the degree of hyper responsiveness. Imaging by CAT scans helps us look for other components. The patient may have sinus disease, reflux, post-nasal drip, or aspiration.
How Is Asthma Different When Youre Older
You may notice new challenges with your asthma as you get older. For example:
- Symptoms may feel harder to control
- It can take longer to recover from an asthma attack or get over colds and flu
- Side effects from asthma medicines can be more noticeable
- Other conditions alongside asthma are more common.
Some of these challenges are to do with natural ageing. As we get older, our lungs are less strong, and our immune system can take longer to fight off infection.
The good news is, there are plenty of ways to manage these changes, with your GPs support, says Dr Andy Whittamore, Asthma UKs in-house GP. And positive things you can do to keep your body and mind healthy in later life.
Diagnosed with asthma later in life?
Asthma diagnosed later in life is known as late-onset asthma. This kind of asthma is more common in women, often starting around the menopause.
Symptoms sometimes start after a viral infection. Some people may have needed steroid tablets or an inhaler for chest symptoms a while before they were given a diagnosis, says Dr Andy.
Its not uncommon for late-onset asthma to go undiagnosed or to be misdiagnosed as another condition, like a chest infection or heart disease, says Dr Andy.
Childhood asthma come back?
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Q: Is Asthma More Dangerous For Adults
A: Yes. The death rate for adult-onset asthma is substantially higher than the death rate for childhood asthma.
One reason may be that adults either ignore asthma symptoms or attribute them to being overweight, being out of shape or getting older.
Asthma symptoms can also mimic those of other illnesses, including:
Differences Between Ad In Adults And Children
Even if you had AD as a child, your skin can look and feel differently when you have AD as an adult. Thats actually one of the most striking differences between AD in adults and AD in children.
In adults, the skin tends to be extremely dry and scaly where the AD appears.
If youve had AD for years, patches of your skin may be thick, leathery, and darker than the surrounding skin. Years of scratching causes this. The thickened skin can itch all the time.
Adults also tend to get AD on different parts of their bodies than do children. When an adult has AD, its most likely to form in one or more of these areas:
Backs of the knees
Back of the neck
Adults, unlike children, often have AD around their eyes. Youll often see thickened, darker skin circling the eyes, as shown in the picture on this page. The skin around the eyes also tends to be very itchy.
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What Kind Of Physician Treats Adult Onset Asthma
Many older patients are treated for asthma by their internist or family physician however, if your asthma symptoms are not under control within three to six months, or if you have severe persistent asthma, or if you are having asthma episodes that need emergency treatment, it may be time to see an asthma specialist. Allergists/Immunologists or pulmonologists are specialists who treat asthma. Those who have completed training in those specialties are usually called board-certified or board-eligible.
Are There Special Considerations In Treating Asthma In Older Adults
Yes. First of all, treatment of asthma for older adults can be complicated by the fact that so many older people take multiple medications for various health conditions. Some asthma medications can react with those other treatments, causing unpleasant side effects. In addition, other medications may actually worsen asthma symptoms.
Secondly, older patients are more likely than younger patients to have mental confusion or memory problems. This may be the result of normal aging or of an illness, such as Alzheimers disease. Whatever the cause, these problems can make it difficult for certain older patients to follow treatment instructions especially if that person takes medications for a variety of health conditions.
Additionally, many asthma medications come in the form of an L-shaped metered dose inhaler which requires a certain degree of manual coordination and dexterity. Older people are more likely to have difficulty with this type of medication device, and in using it, may not receive the correct dose. Treatment with a dry powder inhaler or oral medications can help older asthma patients avoid problems with use of L-shaped inhalers.
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After Your Asthma Diagnosis
The good news is there are lots of effective medicines available to help manage your symptoms. With the right treatment plan and good support from your GP you could stay symptom free.
Here are some things you can do straight away to get off to a good start:
Use an asthma action plan
An asthma action plan is a simple tool to help you manage your asthma well. You fill it in with your GP or asthma nurse.
It tells you exactly how to manage your asthma every day and what to do if symptoms get worse. Evidence suggests that using one means youre less likely to end up in hospital with an asthma attack.
Once you’ve got your own, personalised, asthma action plan, take it along to all your appointments to make sure its always up to date.
Know how to use your inhaler
Using an asthma inhaler can be tricky to get right even if youve been using one for some time. Make sure you start using yours in the best way from the beginning. Some inhalers are best used with a spacer.
Your GP should show you how to use your inhaler and spacer in the right way, but you can also ask the pharmacist to show you when you pick up your prescription.
We have some inhaler videos too which you can watch at home.
Go to all your asthma check-ups
When youre first diagnosed, you may need to see your GP or asthma nurse a few times to check how well your treatment is working. You can also talk about how youre coping with your asthma.
If you smoke, get support to quit
When You’re In Your 20s Or 30s
A diagnosis of COPD is rare in those under 40, but certain people have a higher risk of developing it now or later. If you had asthma as a child, your chances of developing COPD as an adult may be higher. Even though COPD itself isn’t seen in children, doctors now realize that children who have asthma may be at risk of COPD later in life as a result of the lung changes it causes, Dr. Schachter said.
There is also one rare genetic disorder known as alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency that can make people vulnerable to COPD as early as their 20s or 30s, and many people don’t know they have it until COPD has been diagnosed, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
AAT is a protein that your liver makes to protect your lungs, and the deficiency makes a person’s lungs very sensitive to damage. If you have family members with COPD, you are at greater risk of being a gene carrier. Bartolome Celli, MD, a leading COPD expert and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said that people with COPD should get tested for ATT deficiency if they have children. If they turn out to have it, their children should then get tested.
Adults in their 20s and 30s can take several steps to minimize their risk of COPD, particularly if they’re in a higher risk category.
Avoid smoking. Experts agree that this is the best way to prevent COPD.
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Can You Get Eczema As An Adult
Adults can get any type of eczema, including atopic dermatitis , which many people consider a childhood disease.
When AD begins after your 18th birthday, dermatologists call it adult-onset atopic dermatitis. Youd receive this diagnosis if you never had AD before. A peak time for developing adult-onset AD is in your 50s.
AD and the eyes
In adults, atopic dermatitis often develops on skin around the eyes.
Some adults who have AD had it as a child. Its possible for AD to go away in childhood and return years later. When the AD returns, its often much milder.
For some children, the AD never goes away, so its a lifelong disease. This happened to Peter Moffat, the award-winning writer of the British TV series Criminal Justice. You can read about how AD affects his life by going to: Adults with eczema too often suffer in silence