When your asthma is not well controlled, common symptoms include:
- Frequent coughing
- Shortness of breath, also called dyspnea
- Tightness in your chest
If you or your child have these symptoms, it’s time to visit your primary care provider. If your provider thinks you might have asthma, they will ask you to see a pulmonologist—a doctor who specializes in asthma and other breathing problems.
Baystate Health's pulmonary experts are available throughout western Massachusetts. They work to diagnose, treat, and help you manage your asthma. Baystate also provides many resources in the community.
If you think you may have asthma, talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms.
To diagnose asthma, a pulmonologist (lung doctor) will discuss your symptoms and review your health history.
Your doctor will also perform breathing tests, also called lung function tests. The most common test is called spirometry, which tests the amount of air you breathe in and out. Your doctor may recommend allergy testing.
Because there are many types of asthma and many different things that cause asthma, your provider might need to do other tests as well.
When you’re first diagnosed with asthma, you and your doctor will work together to create an asthma action plan. Every asthma action plan should include:
- A list of things that make your asthma worse (your “triggers”)
- Medicines you should take every day when your asthma is under control and your breathing is fine (your “control medicine”)
- Medicines you should take when you have some problems breathing (your “quick-relief medicine”)
- Medicines you should take when you are having a lot of problems breathing
- Who to call in an emergency
- Your doctor’s name and phone number
Asthma is typically treated using a combination of control and quick-relief medication. It’s important that you use the medication properly. If you have questions about your prescriptions or inhaler, call your doctor.
The symptoms of asthma may come and go, but asthma is a lifelong condition. That means you’ll see your doctor every six to 12 months or when your symptoms worsen.
No one knows exactly why people have asthma. Asthma is often genetic (runs in families), and environmental factors like air quality, smoke, and allergies can play a role.
Here are some of the reasons people develop asthma:
- Allergies: Some allergic conditions are linked to asthma. If allergies run in your family, you might have allergies too.
- Genetics: If your mom or dad has asthma, then you might get asthma too.
- Lung Infections. If you have a lung infection as a baby, it might cause inflammation and damage to your lung tissue. Lung damage in infancy or early childhood can impact lung function later in life.
- Environment: Contact with allergens, irritants, dust, and chemicals may cause asthma.
"Triggers" are things that cause (or trigger) changes in the airways and cause asthma symptoms. For people with asthma, triggers include
- Respiratory (lung) infections
- Physical activity
- Seasonal changes
- Smoking (or breathing smoke)
Talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms and triggers. Once you have identified your triggers, you and your doctor can work together to find ways to avoid triggers and manage your symptoms.