Asthma: What are the signs and symptoms?

Written by: Dr David Taylor
Published: | Updated: 14/12/2023
Edited by: Jay Staniland

Asthma is an inflammatory disease that affects the airways of the lungs. It can be common, long term or chronic. It is an inherited condition, which can be triggered by environmental factors such as allergies, especially to animals and pollen.


Prevalence of asthma

Asthma is more prevalent in urban areas, and is increasing in western society. It is very common with adults and children and affects around 5 million people in the UK. Asthma is more common in adult women than in men, but in children this is reversed and more boys are affected than girls.


Signs and symptoms of asthma

Most patients with asthma present with a dry cough, restlessness, tightness of the chest and wheeze. These symptoms can be stronger first thing in the morning and at night as your body slows down the process of producing hormones to reduce inflammation during these times. Asthma symptoms can be mild, and the airways only narrow a little, or they can be more serious where the inflammation causes restricted oxygen intake in the bloodstream. Seek immediate medical attention if the symptoms are serious.


Diagnosis of asthma

Early diagnosis of asthma is critical, if asthma is not treated it can become serious and life-threatening. The diagnosis can be made with clinical examination and a spirometry test.


Treatment of asthma

Asthma can be treated with a variety of inhalers and sometimes with tablets. The patient should also be given a self-management plan and advice as how to avoid triggers.


Is there a cure to asthma?

Asthma can be reversible with the right therapy and treatment. Your doctor can find this out by completing spirometry with reversibility testing. For this test, a spirometry test is given, followed by the use of an inhaler, then another spirometry test is given to test for reversibility. Asthma affects around 5 million people in the UK.




Find respiratory consultants in London

By Dr David Taylor
Pulmonology & respiratory medicine

Dr David Taylor is a leading consultant in respiratory medicine working at the BMI The Chiltern Hospital in Great Missenden and BMI The Shelburne Hospital in High Wycombe. His areas of expertise include assessment and diagnosis of chronic cough, breathlessness, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung infections, lung cancer, pulmonary fibrosis and abnormal chest X-ray.
Dr Taylor qualified from St Mary's Hospital Medical School in London in 1990 followed by specialist respiratory training at the Royal Brompton Hospital and Hammersmith Hospital in London. In addition, he undertook three years of research at the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London investigating molecular mechanisms underlying diseases of the airways such as asthma and COPD. He has published widely on his research.
Dr Taylor has been a consultant in respiratory and general medicine at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust since 2002. He runs a busy general respiratory service and has developed his expertise in airways disease setting up and running a regional chronic cough clinic, severe asthma and COPD clinic and community based respiratory services. He has helped develop national guidelines on the management of chronic cough in various settings.
Dr Taylor has led the Buckinghamshire Hospitals NHS Trust lung cancer service and was Chairman of the Thames Valley Cancer Network lung cancer group until 2012. He was also Director of the respiratory department of Wycombe and Stoke Mandeville Hospitals until 2012. He was appointed Associate Medical Director and Chairman of Division of Integrated Medicine of Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust until 2015. Dr Taylor is now leads the asthma, COPD, cough and non-invasive ventilation (NIV) services for Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust.
Dr Taylor´s other pulmonology and respiratory medicine specialities include lung cancerinterstitial lung diseasesarcoidosispneumonia, bronchiectasis, obstructive sleep apnoea and pleural effusion.

Dr Taylor's qualifications reflect his impressive career achievements. He has a BSc and MD from the University of London, an MBBS from St. Mary's Hospital and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London. He is recognised for his work through a number of NHS Clinical Excellence Awards for consultant-led service and clinical developments.

Dr Taylor's research has been published widely in peer-reviewed medical journals including The New England Journal of Medicine, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine and Thorax. He is also a member of the British Thoracic Society (BTS) and the British Medical Association (BMA).

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