Asthma is characterized by inflammation of the bronchial tubes with increased production of sticky secretions inside the tubes. People with asthma experience symptoms when the airways tighten, inflame, or fill with mucus. Common asthma symptoms include:
- Coughing, especially at night
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness, pain, or pressure
Still, not every person with asthma has the same symptoms in the same way. You may not have all of these symptoms, or you may have different symptoms at different times. Your asthma symptoms may also vary from one asthma attack to the next, being mild during one and severe during another.
Some people with asthma may go for extended periods without having any symptoms, interrupted by periodic worsening of their symptoms called asthma attacks. Others might have asthma symptoms every day. In addition, some people may only have asthma during exercise or asthma with viral infections like colds.
Mild asthma attacks are generally more common. Usually, the airways open up within a few minutes to a few hours. Severe attacks are less common but last longer and require immediate medical help. It is important to recognize and treat even mild asthma symptoms to help you prevent severe episodes and keep asthma under better control.
Know the Early Symptoms of Asthma
Early warning signs are changes that happen just before or at the very beginning of an asthma attack. These signs may start before the well-known symptoms of asthma and are the earliest signs that your asthma is worsening.
In general, these signs are not severe enough to stop you from going about your daily activities. But by recognizing these signs, you can stop an asthma attack or prevent one from getting worse. Early warning signs of asthma include:
- Frequent cough, especially at night
- Losing your breath easily or shortness of breath
- Feeling very tired or weak when exercising
- Wheezing or coughing after exercise
- Feeling tired, easily upset, grouchy, or moody
- Decreases or changes in lung function as measured on a peak flow meter
- Signs of a cold or allergies (sneezing, runny nose, cough, nasal congestion, sore throat, and headache)
- Trouble sleeping
If you have early warning signs or symptoms of asthma, you should take more asthma medication as described in your asthma action plan.
Lung Cancer Symptoms
One fourth of all people with lung cancer have no symptoms when the cancer is diagnosed. These cancers are usually identified incidentally when a chest X-ray is performed for another reason. The other three-fourths of people develop some symptoms. The symptoms are due to direct effects of the primary tumor; to effects of cancer spread to other parts of the body (metastases); or to disturbances of hormones, blood, or other systems.
Symptoms of lung cancer include cough, coughing up blood or rusty-colored phlegm, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, recurrent respiratory infections, hoarseness, new wheezing, and shortness of breath.
- A new cough in a smoker or a former smoker should raise concern for lung cancer.
- A cough that does not go away or gets worse over time should be evaluated by a health care provider.
- Coughing up blood (hemoptysis) occurs in a significant number of people who have lung cancer. Any amount of coughed-up blood should be evaluated by a health care provider.
- Pain in the chest area is a symptom in about one fourth of people with lung cancer. The pain is dull, aching, and persistent.
- Shortness of breath usually results from a blockage in part of the lung, collection of fluid around the lung (pleural effusion), or the spread of tumor through the lungs.
- Wheezing or hoarseness may signal blockage or inflammation in the lungs that may go along with cancer.
- Repeated respiratory infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, can be a sign of lung cancer.
Symptoms of metastatic cancer depend on the extent and location of the cancer spread. About 30-40% of people with lung cancer have some symptoms or signs of metastatic disease.
- Lung cancer most often spreads to the liver, the bones, and the brain.
- Metastatic lung cancer in the liver may cause yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), but it may not cause any noticeable symptoms at the time of diagnosis.
- Lung cancer that has metastasized to the bone causes bone pain, usually in the bones of the spine (vertebrae), the thigh bones, and the ribs.
- Lung cancer that spreads to the brain can cause difficulties with vision, weakness on one side of the body, and/or seizures.
Paraneoplastic syndromes are the remote, indirect effects of cancer not related to direct invasion. Symptoms include the following:
- New bone formation (particularly in the fingertips) that can be painful
- High levels of calcium in the blood
- Blood clots
- Low sodium levels in the blood