Is Your Difficulty Breathing Asthma or Something Else?

Learn What You Need To Know and Do About Your Difficulty Breathing

Difficulty Breathing
Difficulty Breathing. Photo © Digital Vision

If you are experiencing difficulty breathing, it could be asthma. All of the following asthma symptoms may be associated with difficulty breathing:

However, a number of different conditions can lead to difficulty breathing. If you want to know more about your breathing difficulty, this article will help you identify what is causing your difficulty breathing.

Make sure not to just say it's nothing and I will worry about it later. While difficulty breathing can be asthma, it can also be something more serious.

The only way you are going to know and be able to address your difficulty breathing is to see your doctor and get it evaluated. If you assume that it is asthma and just take an over the counter asthma product or your friend's inhaler, you may be mistreating and putting yourself at risk.

Diagnostic Tests For Difficulty Breathing

When you experience a breathing difficulty, your doctor may order a number of different diagnostic tests. Which tests your doctor orders will depend on your history, physical exam and risk factors. Tests may include:

Treatments For Your Difficulty Breathing

When you experience difficulty breathing, your doctor may use a number of treatments that are also used for asthma.

These include:

1. Short Acting Beta Agonists (SABA) such as Albuterol

SABAs can be used for quick-relief when you experience difficulty breathing. SABAs are used for the acute relief of asthma symptoms and also used to prevent exercise induced asthma.

Some of the SABAs include:

  • Albuterol
  • Proventil
  • Ventolin
  • Xopenex
  • Maxair

2. Long Acting Beta Agonists (LABA)

If your difficulty breathing is due to asthma, this medication may be used when inhaled steroids are not adequately controlling your symptoms, otherwise known as adjunctive therapy. LABAs are not used as a single asthma medication for the treatment and prevention of asthma symptoms. LABAs are also not used to treat acute asthma symptoms or asthma exacerbations. If you experience difficulty breathing at night, a LABA may help you get more rest.

LABAs include:

  • Brovana
  • Foradil
  • Perforomist
  • Serevent

3. Inhaled Steroids

Inhaled steroids are the most important medication if your difficulty breathing is due to asthma. Inhaled steroids are the most effective asthma medication available for the long term control of asthma. It is unlikely your doctor will put you on this medication until the cause of your difficulty breathing is known.

Inhaled steroids prescribe to you may include:

4. Leukotriene Modifiers

This type of medication may be considered if your doctor thinks your difficulty breathing is caused by exercise-induced asthma or if your difficulty breathing is related to allergies.

Three leukotriene modifiers are currently available:

5. Anticholinergics

Anticholinergics can treat difficulty breathing by acting as a bronchodilator and are often used in combination with SABAs in the acute treatment of breathing difficulty in the emergency department or hospital. An example of an anticholinergic is Atrovent.

Learn More About Difficulty Breathing


National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Accessed: November 1, 2010. Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma?

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