Asthma Complexities

  • Medical Author:
    George Schiffman, MD, FCCP

    Dr. Schiffman received his B.S. degree with High Honors in biology from Hobart College in 1976. He then moved to Chicago where he studied biochemistry at the University of Illinois, Chicago Circle. He attended Rush Medical College where he received his M.D. degree in 1982 and was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. He completed his Internal Medicine internship and residency at the University of California, Irvine.

  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Asthma Attack Treatment

Quick GuideAsthma Symptoms, Causes, and Medications

Asthma Symptoms, Causes, and Medications

Unusual symptoms of asthma

Patients suffering from episodes of asthma do not always have the typical symptoms of asthma such as shortness of breath, chest tightness, and wheezing (symptoms of airway narrowing). Instead, patients can have symptoms that may not appear to be related to asthma. These "unusual" asthma symptoms include

  • rapid breathing,
  • sighing,
  • fatigue and inability to exercise properly,
  • difficulty sleeping,
  • anxiety and difficulty concentrating,
  • chronic cough without wheezing,
  • protracted cough after an upper respiratory illness,
  • recurrent diagnosis of walking pneumonia, and
  • noises emanating from the chest usually during exhalation.

To complicate matters, symptoms of asthma are not consistent and often vary from time to time in an individual. In some patients, symptoms are influenced by diurnal factors; for example, some patients experience asthma primarily at night (nocturnal asthma) rather than during the day. Furthermore, episodes of asthma can be triggered by many different factors such as allergens, dust, smoke, perfumes, cold air, exercise, infections, medications, and acid reflux. Finally, other illness such as heart failure, bronchitis, and dysfunction of the vocal cords can cause symptoms that mimic those of asthma. For these reasons, accurately diagnosing and treating asthma can be a challenge.

For a comprehensive review of symptoms, causes, and treatments of asthma, and for a better understanding of the normal anatomy of the airways (trachea, bronchi, bronchioles and the lung), please visit the asthma article.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/5/2015

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