Asthma is a common disorder in which
chronic inflammation of the bronchial tubes (bronchi) makes them swell, narrowing the airways. Signs and symptoms include shortness of breath, chest tightness,
cough and wheezing.
Dr. Schiffman received his B.S. degree with High Honors in biology from Hobart College in 1976. He then moved to Chicago where he studied biochemistry at the University of Illinois, Chicago Circle. He attended Rush Medical College where he received his M.D. degree in 1982 and was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. He completed his Internal Medicine internship and residency at the University of California, Irvine.
Dr. Szeftel received his Medical Degree from the University of Cape Town Medical School in South Africa. His clinical training was at Groote Schuur Hospital. He completed his Internal Medicine residency at Brigham & Women's Hospital and Harvard University. He is board certified in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Diseases, Critical Care and Allergy and Immunology.
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
What do each of these individuals have in common: First, an 18-year-old suddenly develops wheezing and shortness of breath when visiting his grandmother, who happens to have a cat. Second, a 30-year-old woman has colds that "always go into her chest," causing coughing and difficulty breathing. Lastly, a 60-year-old man develops shortness of breath with only slight exertion even though he has never smoked. The answer is that they all have asthma. These are some of the many faces of asthma.
We now know that anyone who is exposed to the "proper" conditions can develop the cardinal symptoms of asthma (cough, wheeze, and shortness of breath). Most researchers believe that the different patterns of asthma are all related to one condition. But some researchers feel that separate forms of lung conditions exist.
There is currently no cure for asthma, and no single exact cause has been identified. Therefore, understanding the changes that occur in asthma, how it makes you feel, and how it can behave over time is
essential. This knowledge can empower people with asthma to take an active role in
their own health.
Myths, facts, and statistics about asthma
Before we present the typical symptoms of asthma, we should dispel some
common myths about this condition. This is best achieved by conducting a short
true or false quiz.
T or F - Asthma is "all in the mind."
T or F - You will "grow out of it."
T or F - Asthma can be cured, so it is not serious and nobody dies from it.
T or F - You are likely to develop asthma if someone in your family has it.
T or F - You can "catch" asthma from someone else who has it.
T or F - Moving to a different location, such as the desert, can cure
T or F - Asthma is best controlled when one has an asthma management plan designed by your doctor. This should include the medications used for quick relief as well as maintenance therapy.
T or F - Medications used to treat asthma are habit forming.
T or F - Someone with asthma can provoke episodes anytime they want in
order to get attention.
Here are the answers:
F - Asthma is not a psychological condition. However, emotional triggers can
F - You cannot outgrow asthma. In about 50% of children with asthma, the
condition may become inactive in the teenage years. The symptoms, however,
may reoccur anytime in adulthood.
F - There is no cure for asthma, but the disease can be controlled in most
patients with good medical care. The condition should be taken seriously, since
uncontrolled asthma may result in emergency hospitalization and possible death.
T - You have a 6% chance of having asthma if neither parent has the
condition, a 30% chance if one parent has it, and a 70% chance if both parents
F - Asthma is not contagious.
F - A new environment may temporarily improve asthma symptoms, but it will
not cure asthma. After a few years in the new location, many people become
sensitized to the new environment and the asthma symptoms return with the same
or even greater intensity than before.
F - Swimming is an optimal exercise for those with asthma. On the other
hand, exercising in dry, cold air may be a trigger for asthma in some people.
F - Asthma is best controlled by having an asthma management plan designed
by your doctor that includes the medications used for quick relief and those
used as controllers.
F - Asthma attacks cannot be faked. In rare cases, there is a psychological condition known by a variety of names (factious asthma, spastic dysphonia, globus hystericus) where emotional issues may cause symptoms that mimic the symptoms of asthma.
The symptoms of asthma vary from person to person and in any individual from time to time. It is important to remember that many of these symptoms can be subtle and similar to those seen in other conditions. All of the symptoms mentioned below can be present in other respiratory, and sometimes, in heart conditions. This potential confusion makes identifying the settings in which the symptoms occur and diagnostic testing very important in recognizing this disorder.
The following are the four major recognized asthma symptoms:
Shortness of breath, especially with exertion or at night
Wheezing is a whistling or hissing sound when breathing out
Coughing may be chronic, is usually worse at night and early morning, and may occur after exercise or when exposed to cold, dry air
Chest tightness may occur with or without the above symptoms