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Asthma: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

Symptoms of asthma develop as a result of the narrowing and inflammation of the airways. Wheezing is a characteristic symptom of asthma, along with shortness of breath. Chest pain or tightness can accompany an asthma attack. Coughing can also be a symptom of asthma. The cough associated with asthma is often worse at night or in the early morning. Nighttime cough can lead to problems with sleep.

Symptoms vary among affected individuals. Some people have mild symptoms that occur infrequently, while others have more frequent or more severe symptoms. Severe asthma attacks can be life-threatening.

Causes of asthma

Asthma is a disease characterized by chronic inflammation of the airways. The inflammation results in narrowing of the airways and difficulty breathing. The precise cause of asthma is unknown, although it is believed to result from an interaction between inherited (genetic) and environmental factors. Those with a family history of asthma are more likely to develop the condition than those without a family history. Other risk factors for asthma include obesity, viral respiratory illness during childhood, exposure to tobacco smoke, and hay fever.

Related Symptoms & Signs


United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Asthma." Jan. 27, 2017. <>.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/28/2018
Medically Reviewed on 6/28/2018

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