March 5, 2007
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How is asthma diagnosed?

Although asthma is a very common health problem, it is often not diagnosed and treated early. This is mainly because many people with asthma do not have wheezing. A large number of people feel that their respiratory problem is serious only if they have a wheeze. They avoid seeking treatment from a doctor unless (a) their symptoms interfere with their day¬ to-day work, (b) they wake up at night because of distressing symptoms or (c) the symptoms occur frequently. If asthma is diagnosed early, it can be easily controlled and further damage to the lungs prevented.

Diagnosis of asthma involves the following:

History: There are three important criteria of detecting asthma based on your symptoms. These include: Symptoms such as wheezing, tightness in the chest, difficulty in breathing and cough. The symptoms worsen at night or early in the morning. The symptoms are triggered by irritants) allergens, respiratory infections or exercise. It is important to remember that symptoms of asthma vary from person to person. Not having typical symptoms does not automatically mean that you do not have asthma. Some children may have chronic or frequent cough as the only symptom of asthma.

In order to help your doctor make accurate diagnosis, you need to provide information on:

• The nature of your current symptoms
• Pattern of symptoms over a period of time
• Factors that either trigger asthma or worsen the symptoms
• Details of previous episodes of similar symptoms
• Type of home and work environment
• Ongoing treatment for the current symptoms
• Effect of the disease on your day-to-day activities
• History of similar illness or other allergies in the family
• Treatment taken for similar complaints in the past and the response to the treatment.
• In case of children, details of the first time when the child had breathlessness, history of common cold, allergic reaction in the eyes such as redness and itching and eczema.