What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. Asthma causes recurring periods of wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe), chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing. The coughing often occurs at night or early in the morning. Asthma affects people of all ages, but it most often starts during childhood.
Asthma attacks can be triggered by environmental factors such as smoke, dust mites, pollen, animal dander or exercising in cold weather; or by respiratory infections such as the common cold or influenza. Some people with asthma also have allergies.
How is Asthma Diagnosed?
If you suspect that you or your child may have asthma, see a doctor. Asthma cannot be diagnosed with a blood test, but your doctor will likely ask about your medical history and perform a physical exam. He or she may also order lung function tests.
To measure how well your lungs are working, you will breathe into a machine called a spirometer. This device measures the amount of air you inhale and exhale and how quickly you can exhale. A decrease in the amount of air you can exhale is one sign of asthma. Your doctor may also recommend allergy tests to find out if allergies play a role in your asthma.
What are the Complications of Asthma?
If not properly treated, asthma can lead to serious health problems, including:
– Asthma attack
– Scarring of the airways
– Chronic cough
– Exercise intolerance
– Sleep problems
– Anxiety and depression
If you have asthma, it’s important to work with your doctor to create an Asthma Action Plan. This plan will help you manage your asthma and avoid complications.
What causes Asmtha?
The precise cause of asthma is unknown. However, it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Asthma runs in families, which suggests that certain genes may predispose a person to the disease. Asthma is also more common in people who are overweight or obese.
Environmental factors that may play a role in asthma include:
– Outdoor air pollution
– Indoor allergens (such as dust mites, mold, and animal dander)
– Cigarette smoke
– Respiratory infections (such as the common cold or influenza)
– Weather changes (such as cold weather)
How is Asthma Treated?
There is no cure for asthma, but it can be controlled. Asthma treatment usually involves a combination of medication and lifestyle changes.
Medications used to treat asthma include:
– Inhaled corticosteroids. These drugs are the most effective asthma medications for long-term control of inflammation. Examples include fluticasone (Flovent), budesonide (Pulmicort), and mometasone (Asmanex).
– Long-acting beta agonists. These drugs are inhaled bronchodilators that open the airways and relieve symptoms. They are often used in combination with inhaled corticosteroids. Examples include salmeterol (Serevent) and formoterol (Foradil).
– Leukotriene modifiers. These drugs are oral Asthma medications that prevent leukotrienes (chemicals that contribute to asthma symptoms) from being released in the body. Examples include montelukast (Singulair), zafirlukast (Accolate), and zileuton (Zyflo).
– Theophylline. This drug is a bronchodilator that can be taken in pill form or given intravenously (through an IV).
– Anticholinergics. These drugs are inhaled Asthma medications that relax the airway muscles. They are not commonly used because they have more side effects than other Asthma medications. An example is ipratropium bromide (Atrovent).
In some cases, Asthma medications may be given through an inhaler or nebulizer. An inhaler is a small, handheld device that delivers Asthma medication to the lungs in a fine mist. A nebulizer is a machine that converts Asthma medication into a fine mist that can be inhaled through a mask or mouthpiece.
In addition to Asthma medications, you may also need to make lifestyle changes to control your Asthma. These changes may include:
– Avoiding triggers that can cause an Asthma attack, such as smoke, dust mites, pollen, animal dander, and respiratory infections
– Exercising regularly
– Taking Asthma medications as prescribed
– Monitoring your Asthma with an Asthma Action Plan
If you have Asthma, it’s important to work with your doctor to create an Asthma Action Plan. This plan will help you manage your Asthma and avoid complications.
Asthma is a serious chronic respiratory condition that requires lifelong management. With proper treatment, however, most people with Asthma can live normal, active lives.