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Are My Symptoms Because Of Sleep Apnea or Asthma?

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I had asthma early in my childhood. I am concernedΒ because I'veΒ recently had 3 asthma episodes. I instantly lost my breathing ability over the past several months, while watching television. My doctors want to check for sleep apnea. I don't believe that's my problem, but I am definitely concerned with the immediate loss of breath. Any ideas about what it could be?

You have a history of asthma as a child that did not bother you for many years. Asthma symptoms can improve with time only to return later in life. Your recent symptoms may not be due to asthma. Common asthma symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness
  • Worsening of symptoms with exertion

Severe daytime drowsiness, fatigue, and irritability due to sleep apnea can happen. It is reasonable for your doctors to consider this diagnosis for you. Besides asthma, other diagnoses to consider include:

  • Allergies
  • Sinus disease
  • Bronchitis
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Laryngeal dysfunction
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Inflammatory processes in your airways

Continue following up with your healthcare provider for workups such as basic lung function or spirometry. Other tests may be needed, such as a chest X-ray and laboratory workup. Finally, consult with a pulmonologist and/or allergy specialist. This would be very useful in your diagnostic workup and to decide on medical management.

Asthma, Symptoms
Answered by

John M. James, MD, is a board-certified allergist. He is also President of Food Allergy Consulting and Education Services, LLC. He has worked as a medical specialist in the field of allergy, asthma, and immunology for over 30 years. Dr. James received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas and his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Tennessee. He is board certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology.

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