Asthma symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

Written by: Dr Amit Patel
Edited by: Emma McLeod

Asthma is a health condition that makes it hard to breathe during moments of decreased airway flow. The sensation of suffering an asthma attack can be compared to trying to breathe through a straw. Dr Amit Patel is a leading UK consultant respiratory physician with a wealth of experience in the treatment of asthma, among other conditions. In this article, he highlights the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of asthma.

A picture of an inhaler. These are a mainstay in asthma treatment and are usually steroid-based.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a condition that affects the lungs’ airways by causing them to narrow and collapse. On the spectrum of severity, the condition can range from mild to severe. At its worst, and particularly during times of flareups, asthma can negatively impact a person’s quality of life and can be life-threatening.


What are the symptoms?

Asthma symptoms vary from person to person. They can happen with varying frequency and at different times but are often worse at night. Among the most common symptoms of asthma are:


In those with asthma, needing to use inhalers more frequently can be a sign of worsening control.


What are the causes of asthma?

At present, the direct cause of asthma is not yet understood. There are numerous triggers which are known to exacerbate symptoms such as allergies to house dust mites, pollens, animal hair (most often from pets) or workplace exposures (for example chemicals).


Diagnosis and Treatment of asthma

A diagnosis is usually made through a careful history and physical examination as well as tests of lung function and airways inflammation. There may also be the need for allergy tests. Once a diagnosis of asthma has been made, there are a number of treatment options available. The treatments advised will depend on the severity of the condition and will also account for personal factors and triggers.


There is a range of medications which can help to keep the condition under control over the long term but the mainstay is usually inhalers. These are usually steroid-based and will have other components depending on severity. A ‘reliever’ is often prescribed and this is usually called salbutamol. It can help with increased symptoms but it does not have an impact on improving asthma overall. In some patients, novel biologic agents may be necessary and these are prescribed at specialist centres.


Visit Dr Amit Patel’s profile to learn how he can assist you in the diagnosis and/or management of asthma, along with many other respiratory conditions.

By Dr Amit Patel
Pulmonology & respiratory medicine

Dr Amit Patel is a leading London Consultant Respiratory physician specialising in the investigation and management of all respiratory diseases including acute and chronic cough, asthma, breathlessness of unknown cause, COPD, lung cancer, respiratory failure, sleep apnoea, sarcoidosis, interstitial lung disease and bronchiectasis, and is the clinical lead for respiratory medicine at King's College Hospital, London.

He has a number of private clinics in London, alongside his NHS work at King's College Hospital and Guys and St Thomas's Hospital. During Dr Patel's higher specialist training he obtained an MD in the Division of Asthma, Allergy, and Lung Biology within King’s College London.

Dr Amit Patel holds a postgraduate teaching qualification and is actively involved in undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and teaches all aspects of respiratory medicine. He has been involved in a number of research projects and his work has been published in a number of high impact factor international journals, and presented at major symposia in North America, Europe and the UK.

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