How Do You Know If You Have Asthma?
Millions of Americans have asthma. Though it's a relatively common condition, it can still be life-threatening if not properly treated. Having trouble breathing is scary for anybody, so it's important to understand the symptoms of asthma. But how do you know if you have asthma? Read on to learn more about getting diagnosed with asthma and how this condition is treated.
Can you test yourself for asthma?
There is no easy way to test yourself for asthma. Asthma can only be diagnosed by a doctor. You can, however, make it easier to get a diagnosis from your doctor by keeping careful track of your symptoms. Make note of when these symptoms occur and how they make you feel. Some of the most common warning signs of asthma are:
- Attacks of coughing or wheezing
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness or squeezing feeling in chest or lungs
Sometimes asthma symptoms are induced by exercise, stress, cold temperatures, specific weather, exposure to certain contaminants (i.e. workplace dust or chemicals), or exposure to allergens. When you visit your doctor, be sure to tell them when you experience the majority of your symptoms, so they can understand what type of asthma you have.
How is asthma diagnosed?
If you think you have asthma, it's important to check in with a doctor. These symptoms can be distressing, and a doctor can perform the proper tests to give you a correct diagnosis.
To diagnose asthma, a doctor will usually first ask about your personal medical history. If you have a close relative with asthma, you're more likely to have it as well. Next, the doctor will likely do a physical examination, taking a look at your ears, nose, throat, chest, and lungs. They may want to do chest x-rays.
If those diagnostic methods point to asthma, your doctor will perform a lung function test to confirm the diagnosis. There are a few different lung function tests they may perform to measure how much you can inhale and exhale. They likely take measurements before and after you are administered a bronchodilator, which is a medicine that helps open your airways. If your lung function improves after you're given the bronchodilator, an asthma diagnosis can be confirmed.
How is asthma treated?
Before receiving treatment for your asthma, your condition will be diagnosed on a scale from mild to severe. For some people, symptoms are mild. They may only have symptoms one or two days a week. Other people may experience symptoms nearly constantly. If your asthma is induced by allergens, allergy medication may help. In most cases, though, you'll be prescribed a daily asthma medicine in the form of a pill or an inhaled medicine (inhaler).
You may be given emergency medication as well for when you experience sudden symptoms. These are often called "rescue inhalers," and can give you quick relief if your airways close and make it difficult to breathe.
Is asthma the same as COPD and emphysema?
Asthma is not the same as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or emphysema. These three conditions have similar symptoms. They all cause a shortness of breath, but they do not have the same root cause, and they are treated differently. The only way to know for sure if your symptoms are asthma is to visit your doctor and get a professional diagnosis.
For more information on asthma and how to find which treatment is right for you, contact us.