Asthma in Teens and Adults
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This topic provides information about asthma in teens and adults. If you are looking for information about asthma in children age 12 and younger, see the topic Asthma in Children.
What is asthma?
Asthma causes swelling and inflammation in the airways that lead to your lungs. When asthma flares up, the airways tighten and become narrower. This keeps the air from passing through easily and makes it hard for you to breathe. These flare-ups are also called asthma attacks or exacerbations.
Asthma affects people in different ways. Some people only have asthma attacks during allergy season, or when they breathe in cold air, or when they exercise. Others have many bad attacks that send them to the doctor often.
Even if you have few asthma attacks, you still need to treat your asthma. The swelling and inflammation in your airways can lead to permanent changes in your airways and harm your lungs.
Many people with asthma live active, full lives. Even though asthma is a lifelong disease, treatment can control it and keep you healthy.
What causes asthma?
Experts do not know exactly what causes asthma. But there are some things we do know:
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of asthma can be mild or severe. You may have mild attacks now and then, or you may have severe symptoms every day, or you may have something in between. How often you have symptoms can also change. When you have asthma, you may:
Your symptoms may be worse at night.
Severe asthma attacks can be life-threatening and need emergency treatment.
How is asthma diagnosed?
Along with doing a physical exam and asking about your health, your doctor may order lung function tests. These tests include:
You will need routine checkups with your doctor to keep track of your asthma and decide on treatment.
How is it treated?
There are two parts to treating asthma, which are outlined in the asthma action plan. The goals are to:
If you need to use the quick-relief inhaler more often than usual, talk to your doctor. This is a sign that your asthma is not controlled and can cause problems.
Asthma attacks can be life-threatening, but you may be able to prevent them if you follow a plan. Your doctor can teach you the skills you need to use your asthma action plan.
How can you prevent asthma attacks?
You can prevent some asthma attacks by avoiding those things that cause them. These are called triggers. A trigger can be:
Sometimes you don't know what triggers an asthma attack. This is why it is important to have an asthma action plan that tells you what to do during an attack.
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