Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways, making it difficult to breathe.
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest tightness
- Coughing, especially at night or early morning, during exercise, or when laughing
Asthma symptoms may:
- Come and go over time
- Worsen at in the morning or at night
- Start or worsen with viral infections, such as a cold
What Causes Asthma?
The cause of asthma is unknown, but it usually results from a strong immune system response to a substance in the lungs.
Triggers for asthma symptoms may include:
- Allergies (such as pollen, ragweed, dust mites, mold, or animal dander)
- Irritants in the air (such as smoke, strong odors, chemical fumes)
- Illness, particularly respiratory illness or the flu
- Extreme weather conditions
- Cold air
- Strong emotions that can affect normal breathing patterns, such as laughing, crying, or shouting
- Certain medications
- Some foods
How Is Asthma Diagnosed?
Asthma is diagnosed with a patient history and a physical exam, which includes the doctor listening to a patient’s breathing and checking for allergic skin conditions.
Tests used to help diagnose asthma or rule out other causes for symptoms include:
What Is the Treatment for Asthma?
Asthma is usually treated with quick-relief and long-term control medicines. Allergy shots (immunotherapy) may also be helpful.
Quick-relief medications are bronchodilators that expand the airways, and are taken at the first sign of asthma symptoms for immediate relief:
- Short-acting inhaled beta2-agonists (inhalers)
Long-term asthma control medications are taken daily to prevent symptoms and asthma attacks and include:
- Inhaled corticosteroids
- Antileukotrienes or leukotriene modifiers
- Long-acting inhaled beta2-agonists (usually combined with an inhaled corticosteroid)
In severe cases, when traditional treatments do not work well enough other therapies may be used, such as:
- Oral corticosteroids
- Immunotherapy, useful when asthma is triggered by an allergy
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