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Is Asthma Under Diagnosed?

Although most people have heard of asthma, its symptoms are often overlooked or mistaken for other conditions. Coughing, gasping for breath and use of inhalers is recognisable and these characteristic symptoms pin point asthma to outsiders. Yet among those who do not know they have asthma the process of diagnosis can be more confusing, as sources now inform us.[1]  For example, even a “persistent cough”[2], which many people will be familiar with having at some point in their lives, can occasionally signal the condition yet might be put down to something else.



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Asthma is defined by the NHS website as “a common long term condition that can cause coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and breathlessness”[3]. There is usually an external source (such as dust, animal fur or pollen)[4] that causes the lungs to produce an allergic reaction in certain individuals. As a result, the airways inside the lungs become narrow. Alongside this the surrounding muscles constrict and phlegm increases.[5] This creates great discomfort and is subsequently what causes the four symptoms mentioned above as defined by the NHS. In around 5% of people who have asthma[6], the attacks can be severe and the condition requires specialist care.

Recent insights seem to indicate that it is possible to have asthma to varying levels, or without having all of the symptoms.[7]  So while it may not be extremely likely that a persistent cough, chest pain or trouble sleeping might definitely signal asthma, it is worth noting the variance of symptoms. This might help to ensure that the individual can more quickly receive the right care.


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About Judith Brown

I did an MA in English literature at Kings College London where I wrote a dissertation on representations of characters with learning difficulties. I am very imaginative and write on a range of topics. I like to read, listen to music and draw.

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