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Other possible diagnoses

Bronchial asthma is less likely with the following symptoms:

  • Coughing without further discomfort. This most likely indicates a dry cough (common in smokers, but can also have other causes).
  • Coughing up phlegm or sputum over a longer period of time. This is more of an indication of chronic bronchitis which may have various causes (e.g. smoking).
  • Shortness of breath associated with dizziness, numbness, or cramps. This can e.g. be the case when breathing too fast and too deeply in a panic situation (hyperventilation).
  • Chest pain. This is particularly an indication of a so-called coronary heart disease, in which there is a narrowing of the coronary vessels with circulatory disorders in the heart muscle. But it may have other causes, too.
  • Whistling noises when inhaling. These occur mainly in diseases such as whooping cough or laryngitis.

There are other diseases whose symptoms can be very similar to those of bronchial asthma. It is important to clarify whether the symptoms are due to another disease. The following diseases come into question:

  • Chronic bronchitis (COPD, abbreviated from "Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease")
  • Malfunction or misalignment of the vocal cords
  • Hyperventilation (over-breathing), a condition in which the patient breathes too fast and too deeply (usually in panic situations)
  • Bronchiectasis (pathological sacs in the airways)
  • Cystic fibrosis (an inherited condition in which many body fluids are thicker than in healthy people).
  • Heart failure
  • Alpha1-antitrypsin deficiency (a hereditary disease which, among other things, leads to overinflation of the lungs).
  • Inhaling a foreign body (choking upon swallowing)
  • Cough as a side effect of medication, e.g. if you are taking an ACE inhibitor
  • Narrowing or occlusion of the trachea, e.g. by softening the tracheal cartilage.
  • Pulmonary embolism (complete or partial occlusion with a blood clot of an artery supplying the lungs).
  • Hardening or destruction of the lung tissue, e.g. in pulmonary fibrosis.
Prof. a.D. Dr. Andreas Sönnichsen

Andreas Sönnichsen

Head of the Department of General Medicine and Family Medicine, Center for Public Health, Medical University of Vienna

Prof. a.D. Dr.

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