What is asthma?
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs in which the airways narrow. This usually occurs in response to a trigger such as exposure to an allergen, exercise, or emotional stress.
What are common asthma triggers?
Common asthma triggers include allergens (dust, pollens, molds, animal dander), medications, air pollution, industrial chemical compounds, early childhood infections, perfumes and strong smells, cold air, exercise, and emotional stress.
How is asthma diagnosed?
Since asthma symptoms can closely resemble symptoms of other respiratory problems such as emphysema and bronchitis, asthma often remains undiagnosed for long periods of time. Some people live with asthma for years, thinking they have a bad cough or chronic bronchitis. Doctors diagnose asthma with laboratory tests such as spirometry (which measures the air inhaled and exhaled from the lungs), peak flow monitoring (which measures how much air a person can expel from the lungs), chest x-rays, blood tests, and allergy skin tests.
What does an asthma attack feel like?
The experience differs among individuals. Some asthma sufferers say an asthma attack feels like they are taking deep breaths of cold air and others describe it as feeling suffocated. Asthma attacks make it painful and difficult to breathe, and the asthma sufferer often coughs and wheezes during an attack.
What causes an asthma attack?
When an asthma attack is brought on by a trigger, muscles around the airways become inflamed, swollen, and constricted, making it difficult to breathe. Excess mucus in the airways makes it even more difficult to breathe.
What is allergic asthma?
Allergic asthma is asthma that is triggered by an allergen. Approximately 60% of asthma sufferers have allergic asthma.
Can asthma be cured?
There is no cure for asthma, but it can be controlled with medical treatment, education, and allergen avoidance.
How is asthma treated?
The best way to treat asthma is to avoid allergens or triggers that cause an asthma attack. However, allergen avoidance is not always possible. Drug therapy, consisting of anti-inflammatory medications, reduces inflammation and swelling.
Will I always have asthma?
Some people stop having asthma attacks as they get older, but in the majority of cases, asthma is a chronic disease that requires treatment. If you have asthma, your best plan is to learn how to manage asthma and to avoid triggers.