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Asthma Symptoms and Signs

Clinical features
People experiencing asthma exhibit symptoms virtually identical to those suffering from airflow limitation which is caused by COPD. (Chronic Obstructive Airways Disease). The symptoms for both are usually worse during the night.
Wheezing attacks and shortness of breath are more or less universal in both conditions. A cough is a frequent symptom that will often predominate, and can often be misdiagnosed as another respiratory disorder.

There are many variations in the regularity and duration of asthmatic attacks. Some individuals have only one or two attacks a year lasting a few hours, whilst others may have attacks lasting for weeks. Unfortunately asthma is a major cause of impaired quality of life. It has an impact on work as well as recreational and physical activities and emotions.

Symptoms of Asthma

  • wheezing which usually begins suddenly
  • is episodic
  • may be worse at night or in early morning
  • is aggravated by exposure to cold air
  • is aggravated by exercise
  • is aggravated by heartburn
  • resolves spontaneously
  • is relieved by bronchodilators


Other Symptoms include

  • cough with or without sputum (phlegm) production
  • shortness of breath which is aggravated by exercise
  • breathing requiring increased work
  • intercostals retractions (pulling of the skin between the ribs when breathing)

Emergency Symptoms of Asthma

  • acute difficulty in breathing
  • bluish colour to lips and face
  • severe apprehension
  • fast pulse
  • sweating
  • decreased level of consciousness (severe drowsiness or confusion) during the asthma attack
  • Death

Additional symptoms associated with asthma

  • nasal flaring
  • chest pain
  • tightness in the chest
  • an abnormal breathing pattern, in which exhalation (breathing out) takes more than twice as long as inspiration (breathing in)
  • breathing which temporarily stops
  • coughing up blood

Asthma Diagnosis & Tests
Physicians typically diagnose asthma by looking for characteristic symptoms such as intermittent problems with breathing which can include wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. When these symptoms alone fail to establish a diagnosis of asthma, doctors will usually use spirometry testing.

Trigger Identification
Identifying a specific trigger of a person's asthma is frequently more difficult than an initial diagnosis. An asthma sufferer might develop an asthma attack when using a particular cosmetic or household cleaning product. So when triggers are difficult to identify, a series of allergy skin tests are useful to determine what they are.

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