How Can I Tell The Difference Between A Heart Condition And Asthma?

Dr. Bochner answers the question: 'Do I Have A Heart Condition Or Asthma?'

ByABC News
May 15, 2008, 1:54 PM

— -- Question:How can I tell the difference between a heart condition and asthma?

Answer: So, people with asthma have symptoms of chest tightness, shortness of breath, wheezing; it can happen at rest, but it is particularly worse when people exert themselves. And it's that latter point that often makes it a little bit confusing between distinguishing asthma from heart conditions that also lead to things like shortness of breath, especially with exertion.

So, things that make you think of asthma are shortness of breath symptoms that are relieved with asthma-like inhalers, usually those don't work at all in heart conditions. With respect to heart conditions, they're often associated with additional symptoms that people might be waking up in the middle of the night short of breath and that needs to be distinguished between asthma and heart disease. Asthma rarely, if ever, causes any swelling in the legs. That's almost always a condition other than asthma. And then the typical symptoms of angina, the sort of really chest, a heavy chest pressure that you get with exertion that gets relieved with things like nitroglycerine. That medicine doesn't work at all in asthma.

So sometimes it's a little bit tricky in someone who shows up in the office for the first time with shortness of breath as their main symptom, you can't always jump to immediate conclusions and assume that it is or it isn't asthma, is or isn't a heart condition. Lots of conditions can present with shortness of breath and that's often one of the most important reasons why you should see a doctor and let them help you figure out exactly what the main problems are.

Next: What Kind Of Test Do I Do To Find Out Whether I Have Exercise-Induced Asthma?

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