Asthma Symptoms and Signs
Symptoms of asthma develop as a result of the narrowing and inflammation of the airways. Wheezing is a characteristic symptom of asthma, along with shortness of breath. Chest pain or tightness can accompany an asthma attack.
Asthma Related Symptoms and Signs
- Shortness Of Breath
Quick GuideWhat is Asthma? Asthma Myths Debunked
What is the definition of asthma?
Asthma is a complex clinical syndrome of chronic airway inflammation characterized by recurrent, reversible, airway obstruction. Airway inflammation also leads to airway hyperreactivity, which causes airways to narrow in response to various stimuli.
Asthma is a common chronic condition, affecting approximately 8%-10% of Americans, or an estimated 23 million Americans as of 2008. Asthma remains a leading cause of missed work days. It is responsible for 1.5 million emergency department visits annually and up to 500,000 hospitalizations. Over 3,300 Americans die annually from asthma. Furthermore, as is the case with other allergic conditions, such as eczema (atopic dermatitis), hay fever (allergic rhinitis), and food allergies, the prevalence of asthma appears to be on the rise.
Asthma vs. COPD
Asthma is characterized by reversible airway narrowing, whereas COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) typically has fixed airway narrowing. Some symptoms of COPD are similar to asthma, including wheezing, shortness of breath, and cough. The cough in COPD can be more productive of mucus than asthma, and patients with severe COPD may need oxygen supplementation. COPD is very often a result of cigarette smoke exposure, either direct or secondhand, although severe asthma can evolve to COPD over time. Medications used to treat COPD include inhaled corticosteroids, bronchodilators, inhaled corticosteroid/bronchodilator combinations, long-acting muscarinic antagonists, and oral steroids. There is a newly described syndrome called asthma/COPD overlap syndrome that displays characteristics of both asthma and COPD. This is an area of medicine that needs further study.
What are risk factors and causes of asthma?
Asthma results from complex interactions between an individual's inherited genetic makeup and their interactions with the environment. The factors that cause a genetically predisposed individual to become asthmatic are poorly understood. The following are risk factors for asthma:
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/17/2017