Updated 30 October 2017

Many people have asthma and don't realise it

Many adults are unaware that trouble sleeping or a persistent cough may also indicate the presence of asthma, and therefore don't seek treatment.

While most people know that wheezing is a sign of asthma, far fewer realise that trouble sleeping or a persistent cough may also be symptoms of the airway disease, a new survey shows.

Unusual symptoms

Those findings may help explain why many adults don't realise they have the disease and don't seek treatment, the researchers said. But, one in every 200 U.S. adults is diagnosed every year with asthma, a condition called adult-onset asthma, the researchers said.

"A lot of people have asthma and don't know it. Many adults do not have the traditional asthma symptoms, or they don't have all of the symptoms," said Dr David Beuther.

Read: The four seasons of asthma

He is a pulmonologist at National Jewish Health in Denver, a hospital that specialises in respiratory diseases.

The hospital commissioned the national survey. It included more than 1,000 people who were aged 18 and older. They were asked about the symptoms of asthma.

Many knew the common signs of asthma, such as shortness of breath (89 percent) and wheezing (85 percent), the survey found.

But, when it came to more unusual symptoms, fewer people knew there was a connection between these problems and possible asthma. Just 65 percent knew that a persistent cough could be a sign of asthma.

Read: Taking action in an asthma emergency

And only about half knew that chest pain and trouble sleeping could also be symptoms of asthma, the survey revealed.

"It's not rare that your asthma doesn't present like the textbook. It's actually more common than most people realise. To the patient or perhaps the primary care provider, things that seem like a very unusual set of symptoms for asthma are actually quite common. That is why you often need a specialist to diagnose and treat it," Beuther said in a hospital news release.

Read more:

Causes of asthma

How severe is your asthma?

How is asthma diagnosed?


Ask the Expert

Asthma Expert

Professor Keertan Dheda has received of several prestigious awards including the 2014 Oppenheimer Award, and has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and holds 3 patents related to new TB diagnostic or infection control technologies. He serves on the editorial board of the journals PLoS One, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Lancet Respiratory Diseases and Nature Scientific Reports, amongst others.Read his full biography at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute

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