Is it asthma, or something else?

By Timothy Craig

Asthma affects nearly 300 million people worldwide, and 24.6 million Americans had asthma in 2009. In severe forms, asthma can be deadly; however asthma-related deaths have been decreasing thanks to medical advances.

Asthma symptoms include coughing, mucus production, difficulty breathing, and chest tightness triggered usually by identifiable causes. Males are more prone to have before puberty; however, females are more prone to have asthma after , and the incidence for both groups has been increasing. For all children, the asthma rate increased to 9.6 percent from 8.7 percent over the decade, with 11.3 percent of boys affected and 7.9 percent of girls affected. In adults, the asthma rate increased from 6.9 percent in 2001 to 7.7 percent in 2009, with 5.5 percent of men affected and 9.7 percent of women affected, according to recent reports from the . Asthma rates are highest in the northeast and midwest regions of the country.

All people who have asthma should be screened with pulmonary function testing to determine the severity of their disease and the appropriate therapy.

Often asthma is confused with COPD, a chronic disease of the lungs that results from tobacco abuse or . COPD can lead to significant reduction in quality of life and an increase risk of disability and death. As with asthma, therapies are effective to reduce symptoms, improve quality of life and to reduce disability and death. The greatest problem with COPD is diagnosing it before it has progressed too far. Stopping smoking is the greatest benefit for COPD and can significantly improve a patient lifestyle. Pulmonary function tests can be used to diagnosis, determine the severity of and follow COPD.

One form of COPD is caused by a deficiency of a protein called alpha-1-antitrypsin. Without this protein, people can get COPD very early in life even without smoking. However there is a test to screen for this protein. If you have severe asthma, COPD or a family history of COPD you should be screened for this deficiency.

On Aug. 20, the Allergy, Asthma and Immunology clinic in the Department of Medicine at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center will hold a free screening to determine if you have asthma, COPD or alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency. A short history, exam and test and a finger stick for a drop of blood will be conducted.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Genetic variant may control lung function and risk of COPD

Dec 17, 2009

Researchers have discovered evidence that suggests a genetic variant may be associated with better preserved lung function among children with asthma and adults who smoke, according to a new study funded by the National Heart, ...

Discovery could lead to new therapies for asthma, COPD

Jan 27, 2011

Researchers have proved that a single "master switch" enzyme, known as aldose reductase, is key in producing excess mucous that clogs the airways of people with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The ...

Recommended for you

Ebola vaccine promising in first human trials

4 hours ago

Researchers say they are one step closer to developing an Ebola vaccine, with a Phase 1 trial showing promising results, but it will be months at the earliest before it can be used in the field.

At one month, US Ebola monitors finding no cases

7 hours ago

The U.S. program that requires weeks of monitoring for travelers from African countries with Ebola reaches the one-month mark Thursday. And so far, no cases of the disease have turned up.

EU calls for 5,000 doctors to fight Ebola

8 hours ago

The European Commission called for 5,000 doctors to be sent from EU states to combat west Africa's Ebola epidemic, a European source with knowledge of the matter said on Wednesday.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.