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What is asthma?

Asthma is a long-term condition that affects the airways and can make it difficult to breathe.

While most people with asthma are able to manage their condition, sometimes symptoms can suddenly get worse. This is known as an ‘asthma attack’.

If you think you may have asthma, it’s recommended that you speak to a GP. You should also seek emergency medical advice if you think you're having an asthma attack.

Symptoms of Asthma

The severity of your asthma will affect how often you experience the symptoms. Some people with asthma get them every now and then, while others experience them regularly.

Symptoms of asthma include:

  • wheezing when breathing, listen for a whistling noise when you breathe out
  • a tight chest, which can feel crushing, achy or you may have stabbing pains
  • breathlessness, which may make breathing feel like a struggle
  • a cough, which may be worse first thing in the morning, or last thing at night

For more infomation about asthma symptoms.

Asthma diagnosis

You should consult a doctor if you think you or your child may have asthma. They will usually be able to diagnose asthma by discussing your symptoms, and some relatively simple tests.

The doctor will need to know as much information as possible, including your medical history, whether asthma or allergies run in your family. This will help them rule out other conditions that can have similar symptoms to asthma.

For more information about what will happen during your asthma consultation, click here.

What causes Asthma?

The exact cause of asthma isn’t known, and asthma triggers can differ from person to person, but the condition causes the tubes within your lungs called bronchi to become inflamed.

The bronchi become very sensitive and when faced with an asthma trigger, the airways narrow and mucus production is increased.

Asthma tends to run in families. You can also be at greater risk of developing the condition if you were born prematurely, had a low birth weight or your mother smoked during pregnancy.

The condition can develop in adults too, particularly if you' re exposed to potential triggers at work.

To find out more about the causes of asthma.

How to treat Asthma?

Asthma is a long term condition and although no cure currently exists, there’s several treatments that can help you manage the condition.

One of the most common treatments is medication, usually taken through an inhaler. These include anti-inflammatory drugs, beta agonists and leukotriene receptor modifiers - or a combination of medications.

It's also important to recognise and avoid asthma triggers. Our doctors can help you put together an action plan and explain what to do if you experience an asthma attack.

For your asthma treatment to be successful, it will need to be tailored to your individual circumstances and how you respond to it. It helps our doctors to have as much information as possible. Find out more on how asthma may be treated here.

Asthma in pregnancy

You can have a normal pregnancy and a healthy baby if you have asthma. Your asthma symptoms may get worse during your pregnancy and you may need to have more regular reviews. If your symptoms get worse, then you should speak to a doctor for more advice.

The doctor will want to discuss your current medications with you, to make sure they’re the most suitable - often you’ll be able to stay on the same medications you’re already on.

If your asthma is severe, then precautions may need to be taken during your labour. If you are concerned about having asthma or having an asthma attack during your pregnancy, then our doctors are here to help. They can provide support and advice that you might need.

For further information about asthma in pregnancy.

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