What is asthma?

Allergies and asthma rarely exist without each other. Allergic rhinitis (also called hay fever) is an inflammation of the inner part of the nasal cavity, one of the common chronic allergic diseases.

In people with allergic rhinitis, hypersensitivity (allergy) to substances that provoke the body’s immune cells to produce histamine to combat the allergen. Histamine along with other substances causes an exacerbation of allergic symptoms. Usually the most famous and common allergens enter the body through the respiratory tract.

In allergic rhinitis, there may be persistent runny nose, persistent sneezing, inflammation of the nasal passages, excessive mucus secretion, and watery eyes. Because of the constant postnasal leakage, a cough may begin. The cause of exacerbation of asthma symptoms is allergic rhinitis. Your doctor may prescribe medications to control allergies, and they may also have a beneficial effect on cough and other asthma symptoms.

Stress asthma

Stress asthma is a type of asthma whose symptoms only worsen during exercise or physical exertion. Even people, including Olympic champions who are not suffering from asthma, may experience some asthma symptoms during intense training.

During exacerbation of asthma stress, the peak of the maximum narrowing of the airways occurs five to twenty minutes after the start of the exercise, which makes breathing difficult.

Other symptoms characteristic of an asthma attack, such as wheezing and coughing, may also occur. You may have to use an inhaler (bronchodilator) before starting to exercise to prevent these unpleasant symptoms. What and how to do, tell your doctor.

Cough asthma

In asthma, which is called coughing, a strong cough is the predominant symptom. There may be other causes of coughing, such as postnasal leakage, chronic rhinitis, sinusitis, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD or heartburn).

Asthma is a serious cause of coughing, which is common at the present time. Cough asthma is extremely poorly diagnosed and therefore difficult to treat. The most common causative agent of cough asthma are respiratory infections or exercise.

If you suffer from a long cough, consult a doctor. You may need to pass specific tests that determine the presence of asthma, for example, a test of pulmonary functions, which will show how correctly and well the lungs work. Before you get a definitive diagnosis of asthma, you also need to carefully examine the lungs, consult an appropriate specialist.

Occupational asthma

Occupational asthma is a type of asthma whose pathogens are at your work. Suffering from this type of asthma, you are likely to suffer from exacerbation of symptoms from Monday to Friday, but on the weekends you feel great.

Most people with this type of asthma suffer from a runny nose and stuffy nose, watery eyes, or cough instead of wheezing.

The types of professions associated with the development of professional asthma include animal breeding specialists, farmers, hairdressers, nurses, artists, and joiners.

Night asthma

Nighttime asthma is a type of common asthma. If you have this type of asthma, then the symptoms most likely will manifest at night during sleep, which is predetermined by the sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm). Symptoms of nocturnal asthma include wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing. They are very serious, especially during sleep.

Studies have shown that most asthma deaths occur precisely at night. It is assumed that this may be due to excessive contact with allergens (causative agents of asthma), hypothermia of the respiratory tract, horizontal position of the body or even hormonal changes that violate the circadian rhythm. Sometimes the cause of asthma at night can be heartburn. Sinusitis and asthma can also cause serious problems during sleep, especially during postnasal drainage, which provokes symptoms such as coughing. Even sleep itself changes the performance of the lungs and respiratory tract.

If you have asthma and you notice that the symptoms of an impending attack begin to appear in the evening, it is time to visit the doctor and find out the causes of asthma exacerbation, so do not put it off until later. The right medications and their correct use are key to managing asthma symptoms and normalizing sleep.

Diseases with symptoms similar to asthma

Various diseases can cause some asthma symptoms to worsen. For example, cardiac asthma is a form of heart failure, in which some symptoms are similar to the symptoms of ordinary asthma.

Dysfunction of the vocal cords is another disease similar to asthma. Recently, interest in the peculiar syndrome has increased significantly, in which the dysfunction of the vocal cords causes wheezing and therefore is often confused with asthma. This is more common in girls in the form of loud and strong wheezing, which does not respond to medications that open up the airways.

Since one and the same symptoms can apply to asthma, and to other diseases, your physician should conduct a thorough examination to make sure that these symptoms relate to asthma.

Diseases with similar symptoms:

  • Sinusitis:  also called an infection of the sinuses; this is inflammation or swelling of the sinuses. Sinusitis and asthma often coexist.
  • Myocardial ischemia:  heart disease, which is characterized by impaired blood circulation in the muscle tissue of the heart.
  • Pulmonary embolism:  blood clots in the pulmonary arteries.
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): a  disorder in which the contents of the stomach and stomach acid get back into the esophagus, causing heartburn. Heartburn can exacerbate asthma symptoms.
  • Angina pectoris:  chest pain due to lack of blood flow to the heart.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): a  general term that unites several lung diseases, the most common of them is emphysema and chronic bronchitis, triggered by exposure to tobacco smoke.
  • Chronic bronchitis:  irritation and inflammation (swelling) of the airways, is also considered a form of COPD caused by exposure to tobacco smoke.
  • Bronchiectasis: a  disease of the lungs that is characterized by damage to the walls of the airways in the lungs; the main reason is repeated infections.
  • Acute heart failure: a  heart disease in which the heart pushes blood out badly, which leads to the filling of the lungs with fluid.
  • Dysfunction of the upper respiratory tract: a  disease in which the passage of air is impossible due to blockage by something, including an enlarged thyroid gland or tumors.
  • Dysfunction of the vocal cords: a  disease in which the muscles of the respiratory throat (vocal apparatus) quickly contract, causing breathing problems.
  • Paralysis of the vocal cords: the  vocal cords cease to function.
  • Bronchogenic cancer:  lung cancer.
  • Aspiration:  sudden penetration of a foreign body, such as food, when inhaling into the respiratory tract.
  • Pulmonary  aspergillosis : a fungal infection of the lung tissue.
  • Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV):  this virus can be the cause of bronchitis and pneumonia in children and can trigger the development of childhood asthma.
How to identify the imitators of asthma and make the correct diagnosis?

To make a correct diagnosis and make sure that the symptoms are not caused by any other diseases, your health care provider will study the history of the disease, the hereditary diseases of your family and, of course, the symptoms. The doctor will be interested in the slightest details of problems associated with difficult breathing in the past, as well as a genetic predisposition to asthma or other lung diseases, allergies or skin diseases, such as eczema, which is closely related to allergies. It is very important to describe in detail your symptoms (cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, constriction in the chest area), including when and how often they appear.

The doctor will ask whether you smoke or smoke before. Smoking and asthma are incompatible. Smoking is another major factor in the development of symptoms (COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)  and cancer), similar to asthma. You will also be asked if you have ever encountered harmful chemicals, for example, at work.

The doctor will also conduct a thorough examination, including a test of pulmonary functions, tests for allergic reactions, x-rays of the lungs and nasal cavity. All of these tests will help your doctor determine if you have asthma or another disease that is similar in symptoms to asthma.

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