Asthma is a respiratory disease that narrows the airways. The condition is usually caused by a person’s exposure to allergens, cold air, emotional stress or exercise. A person who suffers from the disease experiences wheezing, shortness of breath, tightening of the chest, and coughing. The disorder causes the airways to hyperactively produce mucus in reaction to various stimuli. The symptoms can be mild or life-threatening. Taking medications or changing one’s lifestyle can help control the problem.
When the problem of asthma arises, it is referred to as an asthma attack. Whenever a patient suffers from an attack, he displays a number of symptoms such as shortness of breath and wheezing. A cough, which may be accompanied by clear sputum, may also be present during the attack. Attacks usually come without warning. They may be accompanied by a pain in the chest and breathing becomes very difficult.
Whenever a person experiences an asthma attack, there is an alarming increase in heart rate. Audible lung sounds are heard through the stethoscope, too, caused by rapid breathing and an over-inflation of the chest. During an asthma attack, there is a tightening of the muscles in the respiratory area and the ribs, which causes the body to struggle for more air. The patient may even lose consciousness during this time
The first step in diagnosing an asthmatic patient is to check on his medical history. Having a family history of asthma puts a person at high risk for asthma attacks as well. Testing someone with a peak flow meter, which measures the restriction of the airways, can determine if he is suffering from asthma. If a clear diagnosis cannot be determined through this test, a formal lung function test may be conducted.