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Signs and Symptoms of Bronchial Asthma

written by: Saoirse OMara • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 1/9/2011

Bronchial asthma can have many different causes. This said, it is no wonder that bronchial asthma symptoms vary from person to person. There are, however, some symptoms which can be called typical for this disease.

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    Definition

    Bronchial asthma, or just asthma, is a chronic inflammatory disease of the respiratory system. The airways react hyper responsively to triggers due to the inflammation. Asthma is closely linked to allergies in most cases. People with a family history of allergies and/or asthma have an increased risk for both allergies and bronchial asthma. Children suffer from asthma more often than adults as some children “outgrow” this disease. About 10% of children and 5% of adults have bronchial asthma.

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    Bronchial Asthma Symptoms

    Bronchial asthma symptoms can be anything from a nuisance to life threatening. Most of the time, they start suddenly and after contact with a trigger.

    Common asthma triggers are:

    • tobacco or wood smoke
    • allergens like mold, dust mites or pollen
    • cold air
    • exercise
    • infections of the respiratory system
    • weather changes
    • stress or very emotional situations, e.g. crying
    • chemicals, perfumes and air pollution

    The most harmless symptoms are allergy reactions similar to hay fever. However, with asthma, it seldom stops with a running nose and itching eyes. Shortness of breath and a tightness of the chest often go hand in hand with those allergic reactions. Weather changes attribute to shortness of breath too. Cold air and exercise often lead to a burning pain in the chest area when breathing in addition to a shortness of breath and a tightness of the chest.

    Tobacco, wood smoke, chemicals and other air pollutions cause a dry cough and wheezing respiratory sounds. The chest tightens until breathing becomes really difficult. Surprisingly, strong emotional situations like crying cause almost the same symptoms as those air pollutions.

    Infections can cause the whole range of symptoms, depending on the type of infection.

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    How Can Bronchial Asthma Be Diagnosed?

    The most common form of diagnosis is the spirometry. This is a lung function test which measures how great the lung volume is, how much air can be breathed out in a certain time and how regular the breathing is. If the doctor suspects it is an exercise-induced asthma, he will make the patient do some workout before doing the spirometry as well as doing a spirometry under normal circumstances.

    Another method to diagnose bronchial asthma is the Peak Expiratory Flow (PEF) method. The patient will be asked to breathe into a small device called the peak flow meter regularly and to track down his results. This way, the doctor gets an overview of his patient’s lung volume and breathing force and how it fluctuates from day to day or in special situations.

    For more difficult diagnoses, an x-ray of the chest as well as blood work can be used to get the final diagnosis. Most of the time, these methods won’t be necessary, though.

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