What Is Asthma?
Asthma is a disease that causes inflammation and narrowing of the breathing passages of the lungs (bronchi and bronchioles).
What Causes Asthma?
Asthma is caused by chronic (ongoing, long-term) inflammation of these airways passages. Individuals with asthma are highly sensitive to various "triggers" that lead to inflammation of the airways. When the inflammation is triggered by one or more of these factors, the air passages swell and fill with mucus. The muscles within the breathing passages contract and narrow (bronchospasm). The narrow airways make it hard to exhale (breathe out from the lungs).
What Are the Risks of Asthma?
Asthma causes wheezing, breathing difficulties, chest pain or tightness, and spasmodic coughing that often worsens at night. Asthma may impair individuals' ability to exercise, to engage in outdoor activities, to have pets, or to tolerate environments with smoke, dust, or mold. Although asthma can be controlled with medications, asthma attacks vary in intensity from mild to life-threatening. Over the past several decades, the number of asthma attacks that result in death has increased dramatically.
The main goals in the medical treatment of asthma are to prevent asthma attacks and to control the disease. Avoiding triggers that induce or aggravate asthma attacks is an important aspect of prevention. Medications used to prevent asthma attacks (controller medications) focus on decreasing the airway inflammation that causes attacks. Rescue medications help open up your airway and are used for quick relief when asthma symptoms occur despite the use of controller medications.
Most of the inhaler therapies have been changed recently because of the government mandate to remove chloroflurocarbons (CFCs) from the devices in an attempt to prevent further damage to the earth's ozone layer. These inhalers have changed to a new propellant, hydrofluroalkane (HFA) or powder devices. This change in delivery system has resulted inadvertently in removing all generic inhalers from the market and only proprietary (brand name) options are available for now.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/15/2014
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