What Are Common Ways To Diagnose Asthma
Personal and medical history. Your doctor will ask you questions to understand your symptoms and their causes. Bring notes to help jog your memory. Be ready to answer questions about your family history, the medicines you take and your lifestyle. This includes any current physical problems. Shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and tightness in your chest may show asthma. This also includes all previous medical conditions. A history of allergies or eczema increases your chance of asthma. A family history of asthma, allergies or eczema increases your chance of having asthma, too. Tell your doctor about any home or work exposure to environmental factors that can worsen asthma. For example, these might include pet dander, pollen, dust mites and tobacco smoke. The doctor may also ask if you get chest symptoms when you get a head cold.
Physical exam. If your doctor thinks you have asthma, they will do a physical exam. They will look at your ears, eyes, nose, throat, skin, chest and lungs. This exam may include a lung function test to detect how well you exhale air from your lungs. You may also need an X-ray of your lungs or sinuses. A physical exam then allows your doctor to review your health.
How Is Asthma Diagnosed
To diagnose asthma, a doctor will do a physical exam and ask about the persons medical history, including whether anyone else in the family has asthma.
The doctor might do tests like spirometry or peak flow meter tests. These involve blowing into devices that can measure how well the lungs are working. Allergy tests or exercise tests can tell doctors if asthma is brought on by allergens or physical activity. Doctors may use X-rays to rule out other problems.
Key Points About Wheezing
Asthma is the most common cause, but not all wheezing is caused by asthma.
Wheezing that starts suddenly in people without a lung disorder may be due to inhalation of a foreign object or a toxic substance, an allergic reaction, or heart failure.
Pulmonary function tests can identify and measure airway narrowing.
Inhaled bronchodilators can help relieve wheezing, but the disorder causing wheezing must also be treated.
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Conditions That Mimic Asthma
There are a number of conditions that can cause shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness. While most are related to the lungs and respiratory system, others are associated with other organ systems, such as the heart and respiratory tract.
When investigating potential asthma, your doctor will consider all possible causes of your breathing difficulty in a process called differential diagnosis.
Proper Testing Can Help
These are just a few of the conditions that can cause wheezing that are not asthma. In order to rule out any other conditions, a proper asthma diagnostic workup is necessary. Proper diagnostic testing such as pulmonary function testing and possibly a methacholine challenge is essential in officially diagnosing a suspected asthmatic, particularly one who does not wheeze.
For years, my doctors suspected I had asthma but weren’t completely sure because I never wheezed. They thought I might have a different lung condition. It wasn’t until I had a methacholine challenge done that completely confirmed my asthma diagnosis.
If you find yourself in the midst of a doctor who is not taking your asthma seriously, I would definitely recommend getting a second or third opinion. Not all doctors have the same understanding of asthma and wheezing. It is also okay to be upfront with your doctor and tell him or her that you don’t wheeze . Don’t be afraid to be your own advocate.
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Heres Why Your Asthma Gets Worse At Night
Having your sleep interrupted is annoying at best and, especially if it happens often, meltdown-inducing at worst. But when you wake up in the middle of a coughing fit or because you feel like youre breathing through a straw, the whole experience can take a terrifying turn.
Unfortunately, thats what some people with asthma have to deal with. It is very common for asthma to get worse at night, pulmonologist Ryan Thomas, M.D., director of the Multidisciplinary Severe Asthma Team at Michigan State University, tells SELF. This phenomenon, which experts sometimes refer to as nocturnal asthma, can make it far too difficult to get the amount of rest you need. It can also be a sign that you need to take steps to subdue your asthma before it gets even worse.
Your airways, which extend between your nose and mouth and your lungs, carry air in and out of your body, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute . Pretty key job, huh? But if you have asthma, those airways can get all puffy and inflamed when youre exposed to triggers like animal dander , pollen, mold, cold air, cigarette smoke, exercise, and respiratory infections like the flu, the NHLBI says. That swelling can then cause the muscles around your airways to tighten, and your airways may also expel more mucus than they usually do. The end result is the opposite of breathing easy: You might experience asthma symptoms like wheezing , coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pain or tightness.
Treating Cat Asthma & Respiratory Infections
Feline asthma is relatively common, with many treatments for cat asthma available. Most respiratory infections can be treated with antibiotic inhalers but some infections may need more aggressive intervention depending on the severity and progression of the infection. The key is to catch respiratory conditions early so they dont endanger your cats health further and get progressively worse beyond treatment. As always, work with your veterinarian to determine the cause and best treatment for your feline friend.
Learn more about cat asthma treatment options, including different medications available, their efficacy, and potential side effects.
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What Are The Treatments For Asthma In Children
If your child has asthma, you will work with their health care provider to create a treatment plan. The plan will include ways to manage your child’s asthma symptoms and prevent asthma attacks, such as:
- Strategies to avoid triggers. For example, if tobacco smoke is a trigger for your child, you should not allow anyone to smoke in your home or car.
- Short-term relief medicines, also called quick-relief medicines. They help prevent symptoms or relieve symptoms during an asthma attack. They include an inhaler to have for your child at all times. It may also include other types of medicines which work quickly to help open your child’s airways.
- Control medicines. They work by reducing airway inflammation and preventing narrowing of the airways. Not all children will take control medicines. Whether or not your child needs them depends on how severe the asthma is and how often your child has symptoms.
If your child has a severe attack and the short-term relief medicines do not work, get medical help right away.
Your child’s provider may adjust the treatment until the asthma symptoms are controlled.
What To Do If Your Cat Is Wheezing
If your cat is wheezing after a hairball or an isolated incident of wheezing, this is a chance that they just might need some more water or a way to pass the irritation they are experiencing. If the wheezing persists, you will need to monitor it to see if it worsens over time. If you notice that your cat has been wheezing for an extended amount of time or stressed by it, they need to go to the vet.
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The Dangers Of Asthma
Side effects of uncontrolled asthma can affect your sleep and keep you from breathing well during work or recreation activities. It can also lead to irreversible narrowing of the airways in the lungs and permanent lung damage.
Eyler reports that lung function naturally decreases starting in the mid-30s but uncontrolled asthma can speed up the process. When the lungs arent working normally, the back and neck muscles work harder to try and help the lungs pump air in and out, blood oxygen levels drop, and you become tired more easily.
When Should You See A Doctor
Its a good idea to see a doctor when you first get wheezing. Since many symptoms of the conditions that can cause wheezing can overlap you may need a medical professionals help in figuring out whats causing it so that you can take appropriate action. Your doctor may listen to the sounds made while you breathe or do tests like an x-ray or a lung function test. Do seek emergency help if you also find it significantly difficult to breathe.15
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Know About Unusual Asthma Symptoms
Not everyone with asthma has the usual symptoms of cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Sometimes individuals have unusual asthma symptoms that may not appear to be related to asthma. Some “unusual” asthma symptoms may include the following:
- rapid breathing
- difficulty sleeping or nighttime asthma
- chronic cough without wheezing
Also, asthma symptoms can be mimicked by other conditions such as bronchitis, vocal cord dysfunction, and even heart failure.
It’s important to understand your body. Talk with your asthma doctor and others with asthma. Be aware that asthma may not always have the same symptoms in every person.
For more detail, see WebMDâs article Unusual Asthma Symptoms.
What Is An Asthma Action Plan
Your healthcare provider will work with you to develop an asthma action plan. This plan tells you how and when to use your medicines. It also tells you what to do if your asthma gets worse and when to seek emergency care. Understand the plan and ask your healthcare provider about anything you dont understand.
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How Is Asthma Treated
Take your medicine exactly as your doctor tells you and stay away from things that can trigger an attack to control your asthma.
Everyone with asthma does not take the same medicine.
You can breathe in some medicines and take other medicines as a pill. Asthma medicines come in two typesquick-relief and long-term control. Quick-relief medicines control the symptoms of an asthma attack. If you need to use your quick-relief medicines more and more, visit your doctor to see if you need a different medicine. Long-term control medicines help you have fewer and milder attacks, but they dont help you while you are having an asthma attack.
Asthma medicines can have side effects, but most side effects are mild and soon go away. Ask your doctor about the side effects of your medicines.
Remember you can control your asthma. With your doctors help, make your own asthma action plan. Decide who should have a copy of your plan and where he or she should keep it. Take your long-term control medicine even when you dont have symptoms.
How Relevant Is This To My Practice
Many preschool children present to the primary care practitioner with recurrent wheeze and cough. These symptoms cause considerable morbidities and can lead to treatment with inhalers, antibiotics or cough mixtures, hospitalisations and considerable healthcare costs.
A clinical diagnosis of asthma is often considered in a child with prolonged cough, particularly if there is associated wheezing and chest tightness. Although asthma is a common cause of cough and wheeze in children and the leading cause of childhood morbidity, episodic cough and wheezing is also common in nonasthmatic children. Although approximately 40% of all young children worldwide have at least one episode of asthmatic symptoms such as wheezing, coughing or dyspnoea, only 30% of preschoolers with recurrent wheezing are eventually diagnosed with asthma at the age of six years.
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What Is Good Asthma Care
Your doctor or nurse will tailor your asthma treatment to your symptoms. Sometimes you may need to be on higher levels of medication than at others.
You should be offered:
- care at your GP surgery provided by doctors and nurses trained in asthma management
- full information about your condition and how to control it
- involvement in making decisions about your treatment
- regular checks to ensure your asthma is under control and your treatment is right for you
- a written personal asthma action plan agreed with your doctor or nurse
It is also important that your GP or pharmacist teaches you how to properly use your inhaler, as this is an important part of good asthma care.
Do Asthma Symptoms Feel Different At Night
Somewhere between 30 and 70% of people with asthma report symptoms of whats known as nocturnal asthma at least once a month1. Daytime asthma symptoms are no walk in the park, but nighttime asthma symptoms can be especially disruptive.
For one, asthma symptoms can wake you out of a dead sleep. Imagine if someone put a pillow over your face, Dr. Galiatsatos says. If they did it during the day, it would still be uncomfortable, but at night you have the added insult of being awakened out of sleep.
But who are these people with asthma who experience nighttime symptoms?
There are some patients who experience worse breathlessness at night for a variety of reasons, Dr. Galiatsatos explains. Some of it is that the physiological change in body temperature could be enough to set off someones asthma. When Im told asthma is awakening a patient at night I have to think about whats going on in that bedroom.
Some questions to ask yourself are: Do you sleep with your pet? Get in bed without showering off the days pollutants? Slumber with the windows open? If you answered yes to any of these things, one simple solution is to address those behaviors. Simply having your pet sleep in another room, showering before bed, or closing the windows to keep irritants out of the room may be enough to reduce the discomfort.
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Which Children Are At Risk For Asthma
Certain factors raise the risk of asthma in children:
- Being exposed to secondhand smoke when their mother is pregnant with them or when they are small children
- Genetics and family history. Children are more likely to have asthma if one of their parents has it, especially if it’s the mother.
- Race or ethnicity. Black and African Americans and Puerto Ricans are at higher risk of asthma than people of other races or ethnicities.
- Having other diseases or conditions such as obesity and allergies
- Often having viral respiratory infections as young children
- Sex. In children, asthma is more common in boys. In teens, it is more common in girls.
What Is The Role Of Wheezing In The Assessment Of Asthma
Wheezing, a musical, high-pitched, whistling sound produced by airflow turbulence, is one of the most common symptoms. In the mildest form, wheezing is only end expiratory. As severity increases, the wheeze lasts throughout expiration. In a more severe asthmatic episode, wheezing is also present during inspiration. During a most severe episode, wheezing may be absent because of the severe limitation of airflow associated with airway narrowing and respiratory muscle fatigue.
Asthma can occur without wheezing when obstruction involves predominantly the small airways. Thus, wheezing is not necessary for the diagnosis of asthma. Furthermore, wheezing can be associated with other causes of airway obstruction, such as cystic fibrosis and heart failure. Patients with vocal cord dysfunction, now referred to as inducible laryngeal obstruction , have a predominantly inspiratory monophonic wheeze , which is heard best over the laryngeal area in the neck. Patients with excessive dynamic airway collapse , bronchomalacia, or tracheomalacia also have an expiratory monophonic wheeze heard over the large airways. In exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, wheezing may be present after exercise, and in nocturnal asthma, wheezing is present during the night.
National Asthma Education and Prevention Program. Expert Panel Report 3 : Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma-Summary Report 2007. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007 Nov. 120 :S94-138. .
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Vaping And Lung Damage
- Talk with your teen about the dangers of vaping.
- Vaping can cause severe lung damage. It can become permanent.
- Vaping can even cause death .
- Vaping tobacco also causes nicotine addiction.
- For these reasons, the legal age to purchase vaping products is 21 in the US.
- Encourage your teen to not start vaping or to give it up.
- Warning: home-made or street-purchased vaping solutions are the most dangerous.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Smoking is considered to be the main cause of COPD. Smoking can also worsen other conditions that cause wheezing.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a progressive lung disease which makes breathing difficult. This can happen because the walls of your air sacs or the walls between air sacs get damaged , or the lining of your airways is constantly irritated leading to the formation of thick mucus , or both.11 Smoking is considered to be the main cause of COPD. Long-term exposure to other things that can irritate your lungs like chemical fumes, air pollution etc. can also lead to COPD. In some cases, people who are genetically deficient in a protein known as alpha-1 antitrypsin can also develop this condition. COPD is usually observed in middle-aged or elderly people.
Other symptoms that indicate COPD include coughing with or without phlegm, shortness of breath that worsens with activity, and fatigue
What to do: COPD causes permanent damage to your lungs, however, there are some measures which can stop this condition from getting worse and help to ease symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe medicine and inhalers that can help you breathe better. Pulmonary rehabilitation exercises can also be helpful in teaching you to breathe better.12
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