Asthma is a common lung condition that affects the ability to breathe. This might mean difficulties breathing from time to time, or breathing problems most of the time.
It affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood.
There is risk of severe asthma attacks, which can be life-threatening.
There's no cure for asthma. But there are treatments that can help keep the symptoms under control so it does not have a big impact on your life.
The most common symptoms of asthma are:
- wheezing - a whistling sound when breathing
- shortness of breath
- a tight chest - it may feel like a band is tightening around it
Many things can cause these symptoms. But they're more likely to be asthma if they:
- happen often and keep coming back
- are worse at night and early in the morning
- seem to happen in response to an asthma trigger such as exercise or an allergy to something such as pollen or animal fur
See a GP if you think you or your child may have asthma and you are finding it hard to control it.
Symptoms of anxiety can be similar to asthma. It is important to figure out if your breathing problems are caused by anxiety or asthma. There are different ways to deal with them depending on the cause.
Asthma can sometimes get worse for a short time. This is known as an asthma attack. It can happen suddenly, or gradually over a few days.
Signs of a severe asthma attack include:
- wheezing, coughing and chest tightness becoming severe and constant
- being too breathless to eat, speak or sleep
- breathing faster
- a fast heartbeat
- drowsiness, confusion, exhaustion or dizziness
- blue lips or fingers
Read more about asthma attacks