The CDC estimates that around 25 million people suffer from asthma in the United States. Sufferers who go untreated may experience life threatening symptoms that make it impossible to breathe. If you decide to head to your doctor to ask about asthma, here's what to expect during your visit.
1. Medical history
The doctor will ask about your symptoms, family history, and may try to find out if there are activities or places that trigger symptoms.
2. Physical exam
Asthma impacts a patient's ability to breathe, so the doctor will check your lungs and listen to your chest for signs of respiratory distress.
3. Breath test
The doctor will perform a spirometry test, which will gauge the volume of air your lungs can take in and release. The test will also measure the speed of your exhale.
4. Additional questions
Based upon the results of the lung test and the physical exam, the doctor may recommend a few other tests to confirm or disprove the diagnosis.
Everyone who suffers from difficulty breathing won't get an asthma diagnosis. Instead, the doctor may diagnose you with sleep apnea or acid reflux disease or other diseases with symptoms that mimic asthma.
After the Diagnosis
After an asthma diagnosis, the doctor may refer you to a specialist for additional treatment. The doctor may also prescribe asthma medication to help you control your symptoms. Follow-up appointments help the doctor gauge whether medication levels need adjustment.
Asthma is a condition that affects your ability to breathe properly. If you have asthma, you may experience tightness in your chest, wheezing, feelings of breathlessness, and coughing. There are several things that can trigger an asthma attack, such as tobacco smoke, wood smoke, outdoor air pollution, dust mites and exposure to mold.
Asthma is treated using a multiple step approach. The first step is to reduce or eliminate your exposure to the common asthma triggers mentioned above. You will probably have two different types of medication for asthma treatment. Both medications are commonly prescribed in inhaler form. The first is a daily, long term prescription. This medication is typically a corticosteroid. It reduces inflammation in the airways, reducing symptoms of asthma. You will also have a quick acting medication to relieve symptoms of asthma flare-ups. The quick acting medications work by relaxing the muscles around the airways. For best results, take the quick acting medication as soon as you feel symptoms.
Asthma is considered controlled when you don't have symptoms of asthma more than twice a week, and don't require your relief inhaler more than twice a week, you aren't woken up by asthma symptoms more than twice a month, and you don't have more than one asthma attack a year that requires oral (rather than inhaled) corticosteriods.
Asthma is a condition that affects the lungs. It is most common in children, however adults suffer as well. Although you will need to visit a doctor for a definitive diagnosis, there are several reliable symptoms of asthma that you may notice on your own.
Asthma does have a genetic component, so if someone in your family has asthma, there is an increased likelihood that you may have asthma as well.
When you visit a doctor for asthma diagnosis, your doctor will probably have you take a spirometry test. A breathing tube is attached to a computer, and the doctor will have you take a deep breath and exhale into the tube. The computer measures how much air you breath out. Your doctor may also measure how much air you breath out both before and after you take medication.
Once you are diagnosed with asthma, your doctor will work to get your symptoms under control. When your asthma is under control you will sleep better, be better able to participate in physical activities, and have fewer incidences of wheezing and coughing.
1. American Lung Association Asthma Clinical Research Centers
The nation’s largest not-for profit network of clinical research centers dedicated to asthma treatment research, the American Lung Association Asthma Clinical Research Centers employs some of the best asthma researchers in the world at each of its 18 clinical research centers located throughout the country.
Since its inception in 1999, the organization has secured over $70 million in funding from government, industry and association sources. The organization has successfully studied the safety of the flu vaccine for people with asthma and the appropriateness of prescription heartburn medication for asthma suffers without acid reflux.
2. Asthma and Allergy Associates
Located in Colorado Springs, Asthma and Allergy Associates’ research center has been conducting drug research for more than 25 years. Co-Director Robert A Nathan is recognized internationally as a leader in asthma and allergy research, and he and his research partner work in the organization’s over 2,000 square feet of fully equipped research space. Asthma and Allergy Associates has won several awards, recognitions and affiliations from reputable organizations including the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology and the Better Business Bureau.
3. The Asthma Research Center at Brigham & Women’s Hospital
Backed by Harvard Medical School and Partners Healthcare, the Asthma Research Center at Brigham & Women’s Hospital conducts research that advances asthma understanding and treatment. The scientists at the research center investigate the best way to use current drugs, the effectiveness of new drugs and therapies, and the latest in asthma research findings so that new therapies can be found.
Airway constriction is also known as bronchoconstriction. It involves tightening of the airways in the lungs, due to constriction in the surrounding smooth muscles. When airway constriction occurs, the affected individual may experience coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing. Airway constriction most often occurs as a symptom of asthma or emphysema. Individuals who are otherwise healthy may experience airway constriction as a reaction to exercise or allergens.
In individuals with emphysema, the airway constriction occurs because of the excess amount of thick mucus in the airways, which blocks the flow of air. Individuals with emphysema must stop smoking. They will be taught breathing techniques to maximize airflow. Individuals with emphysema can exhaust themselves trying to get enough air through their constricted lungs, and may experience panic attacks due to the feeling of not being able to breathe.
Individuals may also experience exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, which is more commonly called exercised-induced asthma, although it is not the same as asthma. Exercised-induced bronchoconstriction occurs when the airway becomes constricted during exercise. It is believed that this occurs in sensitive individuals when they breath in a large amount of cool, dry air. Exercising when the air is body temperature and has a higher humidity can reduce the incidence of exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. Exercise-induced broncoconstriction can occur in anyone, of any age, however it is more common in individuals who have asthma.
Allergen-induced bronchoconstriction is similar to exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, except the trigger is exposure to an allergen, such as pollen. The body produces an immunological response, which constricts the airways.
Asthma symptoms vary for each person. Symptoms occur when the airway tightens, becomes inflamed or fills with mucus and range from mild to severe with each attack. Some symptoms occur frequently while others only happen at specific times, such as during exercise or viral infections like colds or flu.
Common asthma symptoms include
Uncommon asthma symptoms may include
When you recognize asthma symptoms treat them immediately to prevent escalation. Breathing can become more difficult as your lungs tighten and less air is available silencing the wheezing sound and giving the indication of improvement. On the contrary, with less and less oxygen flowing to your blood you can lose consciousness and die.
Also note that bronchitis, dysfunctional vocal cords or heart failure can cause symptoms that mimic asthma. Talk to your doctor about asthma and understand your body.