How Do You Know If You Have Asthma?

It's Not Always Obvious Your Symptoms Are Asthma

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I sometimes get this question from concerned parents or people with symptoms that they cannot explain. Understanding the symptoms and the process of getting an asthma diagnosis is the first step in achieving good asthma control.

What Are The Symptoms of Asthma?

No two people experience asthma in exactly the same way. While some people have relatively mild symptoms, others’ symptoms are more severe. The classical symptoms of asthma include:

These symptoms, taken in whole, can classify your asthma severity. Severity is important in that it will guide your asthma treatment. Asthma can be classified into the following categories:

Some asthma treatments are geared specifically towards certain severity categories.

However, not all that wheezes is necessarily asthma and other diseases can mimic asthma symptoms.

How Do I Get Diagnosed?

Getting an asthma diagnosis is not always easy. Patients don’t always read a textbook and present with classical symptoms.

As a result, your doctor may order several different tests to help diagnose asthma or other medical conditions that may mimic asthma. These tests might include:

    While not generally a diagnostic test, your doctor will have you regularly perform peak flows in order to monitor your asthma. Monitoring your asthma is an important part of your asthma action plan and gaining control of your asthma.

    Can Other Medical Problems Resemble Asthma?

    While asthma can lead to the typical asthma symptoms of wheezing, chest tightness, cough, and shortness of breath, other serious medical conditions can also lead to these symptoms and it is important to get a correct diagnosis.

    For example, diseases like congestive heart failure or COPD can cause wheezing, but the wheezing is not due to asthma.

    Conditions That May Make Your Asthma Worse

    If you are doing everything your doctor is suggesting but your asthma control is still poor, you may want to consider some alternative diagnoses.

    For example, gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD is a fairly common condition that can lead to poorly controlled asthma. Similarly, obstructive sleep apnea or OSA is a medical condition that can also lead to uncontrolled asthma.

    What Is Your Biggest Asthma Problem?

    We want to help you get control of your asthma. I want to hear about your biggest asthma problem so that we can try to help you develop a solution or better understand how to help.
 You are probably not the only one with the problem. Take a few minutes describing your problem so we can develop a solution together.


    National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. ​Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma

    Centers For Disease Control. Asthma.

    Clinical Pulmonary Function Testing, Exercise Testing, and Disability Evaluation, & Testing, Exercise Testing, and Disability Evaluation. In Chest Medicine: Essentials Of Pulmonary And Critical Care Medicine. Editors: Ronald B. George, Richard W. Light, Richard A. Matthay, Michael A. Matthay. May 2005, 5th edition.

    Asthma. In Chest Medicine: Essentials Of Pulmonary And Critical Care Medicine. Editors: Ronald B. George et. al. May 2005, 5th edition.

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