Asthma (symptoms) symptoms of asthma begin when an infection in the airways is detected by the immune system. The immune system then releases while blood cells to the affected area.

This film explains the symptoms of asthma (often referred to as an asthma attack) and how doctors and healthcare professionals diagnose the condition.

Asthma symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

If you are wondering if you, or someone you know has Asthma there are several warning signs: shortness of breath, waking up at night coughing, tightness in your chest and wheezing. However its important to keep in mind only your Doctor can tell for sure whether or not you have Asthma.

Although asthma is common, it can quite often be hard to diagnose. Just because someone wheezes or has asthma symptoms doesn’t mean it’s asthma. There are many conditions that can look like asthma.

To make a diagnosis your doctor will begin by taking a medical history. Because asthma can be hereditary, your doctor will want to know if anyone in your family has suffered from the disease. He or she will also ask you the specific details of your symptoms.

– How many days of the week are you coughing?
– Are you short of breath?
– Are you wheezing/
– How frequently do you get your colds?
– What tends to trigger them?
– How does the season change affect you?

Once you’ve had a Doctor consult, the tests begin. Using a stethoscope the doctor will start by checking your lungs, listening for the classic wheeze of asthma. Wheezing is a whistling sound which often occurs in asthmatics when they breathe. Next your Doctor will likely use a device called a sparometer to gauge how well your lungs are working. The sparometer is an office instrument which measures two numbers which are useful – one is your force vital capacity which is your deepest breath and how much air you can ultimately get out of your lungs and the other is how much you can get out in one second.

Based on the results of these tests your doctor can determine not only if you have asthma but also the severity of your disease. Once a diagnosis of asthma has been made the next step is to determine your specific type of asthma.

What are the different types of asthma?

The majority of asthmatics have what is commonly called ‘Allergic Asthma’. Their attacks are triggered by inhaled allergens such as pollen, dust or pet dander. Most childhood asthma is allergic asthma.

People with ‘Intrinsic Asthma’ have attacks which are set off by irritants other than allergens such as perfumes, cleaning agents, air pollution or cold air.

‘Sleep Related Asthma’ affects people whenever they are asleep, this type of asthma is primarily triggered by allergens in bedding or a decrease in room temperature.

‘Occupational Asthma’ is caused by extended exposure to a trigger in the workplace. Examples include smoke, chemicals and dust as well as emotional excitement or stress. Occupational asthma can occur in almost any line of work and any work environment.
Finally some people only experience asthma attacks while exercising. Exercise-induced Asthma is caused by rapidly breathing in cold, dry air. When this air hits the warm moist environment of the lungs it can irritate the airways and set off an attack.

Diagnosing asthma

To determine which type of asthma you have your doctor may order a chest X-ray or blood test. He or she may also want to conduct an allergy test, the most common type of allergy test is known as a skin-prick test.

By allergy skin testing we are able to identify some of the common triggers for asthma and by identifying these factors we can then make the appropriate interventions in the home to decrease the level of irritants and thus flare-ups.

With the skin-prick test, a small amount of the allergen is placed under the skin. The Doctor will then watch for signs of a reaction such as swelling or redness.

Treating asthma

Once your type of asthma has been determined you can begin to learn to avoid the triggers of your asthma attacks. In addition your doctor will start you on a prescription drug regimen to keep your asthma under control.

A diagnosis of asthma does not have to mean radical changes to your life. By understanding your type of asthma and knowing how to manage the disease you can still lead an active and healthy life.

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