Signs of Asthma
Asthma can be hard to diagnose. This is because the signs of asthma are similar to those of other lung diseases. The signs of COPD, pneumonia, bronchitis, pulmonary embolism, anxiety and heart disease can all be confused for asthma. It is important to note that women are misdiagnosed with asthma when they really have COPD more often than men.
To figure out if asthma is causing your discomfort, the doctor will first ask about your symptoms and health history. She will then do a physical exam.
To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor may run any of the following tests:
- Spirometry: The doctor uses a machine called a spirometer to see how well you breathe. This test measures how much air you can blow out of your lungs. It also records how fast you can exhale it. If these measurements are lower than normal, you may have asthma. But sometimes people with asthma have normal spirometry results.
- Bronchodilator Reversibility Testing: If your spirometry test is abnormal, your doctor will ask you to inhale a medicine called a bronchodilator. Then the doctor repeats spirometry to measure how this medicine affects your breathing. Bronchodilators relax muscles around the airways making it easier to breathe.
- Challenge Test: If the diagnosis is still unclear after spirometry and bronchodilator reversibility testing, doctors often suggest a challenge test. During this test you will inhale a medicine that nbullets the airways in your lungs. After you inhale the medicine, the doctor will do a spirometry test. If you have asthma, the medicine will reduce the amount and speed of the air exhaled.
The doctor may also suggest other tests to make sure another disease is not causing your problems. These include:
- Chest x ray: This allows the doctor to see the condition of your lungs. Chest x rays can help the doctor to see if other lung diseases or infections are causing your symptoms.
- Electrocardiogram: An electrocardiogram is a test that records the electrical activity of the heart. An electrocardiogram allows the doctor to see if heart disease is causing your breathing problems.
Asthma is an ongoing or chronic disease of the airways in the lungs called bronchial tubes. Bronchial tubes carry air in and out of the lungs. In people with asthma, the walls of the airways become swollen or inflamed and oversensitive. Asthmatic airways overreact to things like viruses, smoke, dust, mold, animal hair, roaches, and pollen. When they react they get nbulleter. This limits the flow of air into and out of the lungs. Asthma causes wheezing, coughing, tightness in the chest and trouble breathing.
About 20 million Americans have asthma. Women are more likely to have asthma than men. In the United States more than 11 million women had asthma in 2003 compared to 8.2 million men.
The percentage of women, especially young women, diagnosed with asthma continues to the rise in the United States. Researchers are not sure why. But there are several theories.
Many experts think that more contact with indoor and outdoor allergens and pollution plays a role in increasing the rate of asthma. Exposure to house dust mite and cockroach allergens as well as tobacco smoke is linked to an increased risk of asthma.