Symptoms and Signs of Asthma Types, Symptoms, Causes, and Tests

Doctor's Notes on Asthma Types, Symptoms, Causes, and Tests

Asthma is a disease that is a result of chronic (ongoing, long-term) inflammation of the breathing passages of the lungs. This makes the airways highly sensitive to various "triggers." When the inflammation is "triggered", the walls of the passages swell, and the openings fill with mucus. Muscles within the breathing passages contract (bronchospasm), causing even further narrowing, which makes it difficult for air to be exhaled from the lungs. This resistance to exhaling leads to the typical symptoms of an asthma attack. Common asthma triggers include exposure to tobacco smoke, pollution, perfumes or cleaning products, exposure to airway irritants at the workplace, inhaling allergens (such as molds, dust, or animal dander), upper respiratory infection, cold or dry weather, stress, physical exertion, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), sulfites, and menstruation.

Symptoms of an asthma attack include wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, coughing, and difficulty speaking. The severity of asthma can change over time, and it may improve or worsen.

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.