What is asthma?

asthma inhaler

Asthma is a chronic, lifelong lung disease that specifically affects the airways. It is characterized by difficulty breathing, persistent coughing, tightness of the chest and wheezing. Inflammation of the airways is what causes these symptoms, which can be quite severe. Other times, they go away with little to no medical intervention. However, severe asthma attacks can be serious and, at times, even fatal.

Even so, asthma is generally considered a manageable disease. The causes of asthma remain unknown, but some factors do seem to play a role in contributing to the disease. Allergies, smoking, infections and stress all seem to exacerbate asthma.

Symptoms of asthma

Airway constriction is the hallmark of asthma, which can cause many respiratory issues including:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tightening of the chest
  • Wheezing or whistling when breathing
  • Persistent coughing that worsens in the morning and at night
  • Shortness of breath

Treatment

The key to managing asthma is controlling its debilitating symptoms and avoiding known triggers. Medications for short-term relief (such as albuterol) can open airways that have been constricted by asthma. This type of medicine is delivered on the spot on an as-needed basis. These medications take effect almost immediately and are ideal for regulating an asthma attack. They are often delivered through an inhaler or face mask.

Long-term drugs may be necessary for those suffering from severe and persistent asthma. These daily treatments can be delivered via inhaler or pill to help keep airways open. These drugs can include corticosteroids, leukotriene modifiers, beta agonists and theophylline, according to Mayo Clinic. Making environmental modifications can help ease asthma symptoms, according to Mayo Clinic. This includes using a dehumidifier as well as your air conditioner. Dusting regularly and avoiding known allergens can also improve asthma symptoms.

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