Asthma occurs when the airways in your lungs (bronchial tubes) become inflamed and constricted. The muscles of the bronchial walls tighten, and your airways produce extra mucus that blocks your airways. Signs and symptoms of asthma range from minor wheezing and shortness of breath, nighttime coughing to life-threatening asthma attacks.
Asthma can't be cured, but its symptoms can be controlled. Management includes avoiding asthma triggers and tracking your symptoms. You may need to regularly take long-term control medications to prevent flare-ups and short-term "rescue" medications to control symptoms once they start.
Asthma can be objectively assessed by measuring lung function using spirometry. This test measures the narrowing of your bronchial tubes by checking how much air you can exhale after a deep breath,
This testing together with any change in asthma status determines when you may need to increase medication usage and/ or take other steps to treat worsening asthma and get your asthma back under control.
If your asthma keeps getting worse, you may need a trip to the emergency room.
It isn't clear why some people get asthma and others don't, but it's probably due to a combination of environmental and genetic (inherited) factors.
Asthma triggers are different from person to person. Exposure to various allergens and irritants can trigger signs and symptoms of asthma, including:
● Airborne allergens, such as pollen, animal dander, mold, cockroaches, and dust mites● Respiratory infections, such as the common cold● Physical activity (exercise-induced asthma)● Cold air ● Air pollutants and irritants such as smoke ● Certain medications, including beta-blockers, aspirin, and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs● Strong emotions and stress ● Sulfites, preservatives added to some perishable foods● Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition in which stomach acids back up into your throat● Menstrual cycle in some women● Allergic reactions to foods such as peanuts or shellfish
Three key circumstances may lead you to talk to your doctor about asthma:
● Rapid worsening of shortness of breath or wheezing● No improvement even after using short-acting bronchodilators● Shortness of breath with minimal activity
If you think you have asthma. If you have frequent coughs that last more than a few days or any other signs or symptoms of asthma. Treating asthma early, especially in children, may prevent long-term lung damage and prevent worsening of the condition over time.
To monitor your asthma after diagnosis. If you know you have asthma, work with your doctor to keep it under control. Good asthma control not only helps you feel better on a daily basis but also can prevent a life-threatening asthma attack.
Treatment for asthma generally involves avoiding triggers of your asthma attacks and taking one or more asthma medications. Treatment varies from person to person.
Most people with persistent asthma use a combination of long-term control medications and quick-relief medications, taken with a hand-held inhaler.
If your asthma symptoms are triggered by airborne allergens, such as pollen or pet dander, you may need allergy treatment. You may need to try a few different medications before you find what works best.
Because asthma changes over time, you will need to work with your doctor to monitor your symptoms and learn how to make needed adjustments.
Medications used to treat asthma include long-term control medications, quick-relief (rescue) medications, and medications to treat allergies. The right medication for you depends on your age and symptoms, and what seems to work best to keep your asthma under control.