What is Asthma?
Asthma is a disorder that causes the lungs to become inflamed and narrows breathing airways. A person with asthma experiences a whistling or squeaking sound when they breathe, known as wheezing. Asthma occurs at many ages but especially appears to start during childhood. Coughing becomes worse in the morning or at night.
In many cases, the inflamed airways become swollen and sensitive to the environment and substances in the air around the person. When the airways react to disturbing substances, the muscles in the airways tighten. Airways become narrower, and less air gets into the lungs when an attack happens. The chest muscles become tight, and the lungs and bronchial tubes may make more mucus than usual, which further limits the amount of air into the lungs. About 25 million people in the US have asthma. Sometimes you can treat your asthma symptoms with medication and symptoms go away. If you continue to have symptoms, you may be having an asthma attack, and need to seek medical attention as soon as possible. To avoid a flareup like this, treat your asthma symptoms as soon as you have them. Asthma has been fatal in some cases. The exact cause of this serious lung problem remains unknown.
Who is at Risk for Asthma?
You may be more likely to have asthma if you:
Another theory blames asthma on the Western lifestyle. Because we emphasize cleanliness and sanitation, children experience fewer childhood infections. For that reason, children whose immune systems are developing don’t get exposed to as many germs, and don’t generate as strong of an immune system as they did in earlier years. This fact seems to remains especially true in children who have a family history of allergies and asthma.
More boys than girls seem to have asthma; however, more mature women than men have asthma as adults. Plus, people who have allergies tend to have asthma, as well. African Americans and Puerto Ricans tend to develop asthma more than do other ethnic groups.
Signs of Asthma
The symptoms of asthma include:
What Causes an Asthma Attack?
Various triggers cause an asthma attack. Your physician can help you find out what specific substances or events trigger your asthma attacks. Some of the possible triggers of asthma include:
Everyone who has the symptoms mentioned above does not have asthma. For a definitive diagnosis, your health care provider may have you take a lung function test and do a complete physical exam with a thorough medical history.
Your regular health care provider may be able to manage your asthma once diagnosed. But if you need multiple medications to treat your asthma, or have a difficult time keeping asthma symptoms under control, you may need to see an asthma specialist.
Some other tests that may be required for a diagnosis of asthma include:
Once a diagnosis of asthma is made, it remains crucial to treat asthma symptoms as soon as they occur. When a treatment plan has been established, you'll be in a better position to keep your asthma under control and you should be able to lead a reasonably healthy and active life.
You and physician need to work in partnership to determine a plan of action regarding asthma treatment. You need to understand your prescribed medications and when to use them. Most people use a rescue inhaler for immediate needs. You also may take a pill or use another inhaler to reduce your symptoms and to enable you to breathe more efficiently daily. These medications may include inhaled corticosteroids that reduce inflammation in your lungs. After you use an inhaler, be sure to rinse your mouth out to avoid a mouth infection called thrush. Some of the possible medications and devices you may be prescribed include:
If you need to use your quick-relief asthma inhaler more than twice per week, check in with your doctor to determine if more or different medications are needed. You’ll need to check in with your doctor routinely to keep good communication flowing about your asthma and treatments. But if you feel like your asthma is out of control, or your medications aren’t helping, and you’re having a flare, you should call 911 or go to the emergency room right away.
Once you’ve found the right medications for your asthma and can avoid your triggers, you can lead an active, fulfilling life, even with asthmna.