Breathing is such a natural and necessary part of life that most people barely even think about it. But it can be noticeable and alarming to feel like your breathing is not giving you the right amount of oxygen. If you’ve been feeling this way lately, you may have asthma. Some common asthma symptoms include feeling short of breath, having chest tightness, and coughing or wheezing.

An important thing to note though is that recent research has shown that a third or more of around 600 adults tend to get misdiagnosed with asthma. The reason for this is that asthma shares incredibly common symptoms with a number of health issues, ranging from minor allergies to something more serious like emphysema.

So how do you know if you have asthma or something like emphysema?

Learn the Difference

While asthma and emphysema share similar symptoms, they are two different diseases entirely.

As a disease that causes airway inflammation and hinders bronchial tube function, asthma does not have a known cause. But asthma causes are thought to be a certain combination of factors like genetics, allergies, respiratory infections, and a person’s environment. People with asthma can’t cure their condition, but they can manage its symptoms through pharmaceutical treatments. These can be made more affordable through online resources like Rx Connected, a Canadian pharmacy referral service for international and Canadian pharmacies.

Unlike asthma, emphysema does not respond as well to pharmaceutical measures. Usually caused by a long history of smoking cigarettes, emphysema is a disease of the lung tissue that slowly progresses. It is irreversible and can eventually lead to some people with the condition needing extra oxygen assistance. However, people with emphysema can regain some relief by managing the symptoms they have.

Still not sure what condition you’re more likely to have? Or maybe you are. Either way, it’s best to consult your doctor. They will be able to provide you with a more accurate and professional diagnosis.

Get a Professional Diagnosis

A professional diagnosis will be more likely to give you peace of mind, letting you relax as you learn that you don’t have any excessive breathing troubles. It can also give you the chance to find relief from your condition’s symptoms.

For asthma, your doctor can determine a diagnosis through activities like the following:

  • Physical exam — your doctor will thoroughly look over the condition of your body
  • Spirometry tests — you’ll blow into a device called a spirometer and learn how much air you can inhale and exhale and how fast
  • Peak flow tests — a peak flow meter will determine how well air moves through your lungs

For emphysema, your doctor may diagnose it using examinations like the following:

  • Pulmonary Function Testing — your doctor will objectively assess your airflow and volume of air in your lungs
  • Chest X-ray — taking a more detailed look at your chest can determine your lungs’ current condition
  • Arterial blood gases analysis — this examination will give your doctor a better idea at how well your lungs provide oxygen and remove carbon dioxide

Seek Available Treatments

Whether your diagnosis indicates that you have asthma or emphysema, know that there are available treatments for both. A commonly helpful asthma and emphysema treatment is the use of bronchodilator medications, such as an albuterol inhaler, which is used to help ease and open airways to make breathing easier on your lungs.

Other emphysema treatments may include a combination of treatments:

  • Oxygen therapy — through this therapy, you’ll receive supplemental oxygen
  • Surgery or a lung transplant — you might be eligible to remove your damaged lung tissue or replace it entirely
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation — this treatment will provide education, nutrition counselling, and breathing techniques to help you quit smoking and rehabilitate your lungs

With all this medical help available, your breathing difficulties don’t have to remain unbearable. You can find the relief you deserve by first considering your condition, getting it professionally diagnosed, and seeking out an available treatment that suits your needs.