Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways, making it difficult to breathe.
10 Common Asthma Triggers
Common asthma triggers may include:
- Exposure to an allergen (such as pollen, ragweed, dust mites, mold, or animal dander)
- Irritants in the air (such as smoke, strong odors, chemical fumes)
- Illness, especially respiratory illness or the flu
- Certain medications
- Some foods
- Extreme weather conditions
- Physical display of strong emotion that affects normal breathing patterns, such as laughing, crying, or shouting
What Are Symptoms of Asthma?
Symptoms of asthma include:
- Coughing, especially at night or early morning, during exercise, or when laughing
- Difficulty breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
When symptoms of asthma significantly worsen and require a change in the usual treatment, it is considered an asthma attack. Asthma attacks may start gradually or suddenly and can be life-threatening.
How Is Asthma Diagnosed?
Asthma is diagnosed with a patient history and a physical examination. Tests used to help diagnose asthma or rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms include:
What Asthma Medications and Treatments Are Used?
Treatment for asthma is aimed at controlling symptoms and reducing asthma attacks with the fewest side effects. A personalized “asthma action plan” may be prescribed to patients with instructions to follow at home to manage asthma.
Asthma is usually treated with two types of medications: quick-relief and long-term control. Allergy shots (immunotherapy) may also be used.
Quick-relief medications are bronchodilators taken at the first sign of asthma symptoms to expand the airways 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
- Long-acting inhaled beta2-agonists (usually combined with an inhaled corticosteroid)
- Antileukotrienes or leukotriene modifiers
For severe asthma, traditional treatments may be insufficient, and other therapies may be used, such as:
- Oral corticosteroids
- Immunotherapy, useful when asthma is triggered by an allergy
- Allergy shots (subcutaneous immunotherapy [SCIT])
- Sublingual (under the tongue) tablets or drops (sublingual immunotherapy [SLIT])
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Asthma and Allergy Resources
Image Source: iStock Images