Health & Info
Asthma is a disease of the respiratory system that involves inflammation of the bronchial tubes, or airways, which carry air to the lungs. The airways overreact to substances that cause allergic reactions(allergens) and to smoke, cold air, or other environmental factors. This overreaction causes the airways to narrow, leading to difficulty breathing (asthma episodes). Allergens cause long-term (chronic) inflammation and can cause asthma episodes. Smoke, cold air, and other environmental factors also can cause asthma episodes, but they do not cause inflammation.
Asthma often develops in childhood or the teen years. It is the most common chronic childhood disease. The number of cases of asthma has grown steadily in the past 30 years, making it one of the leading public health problems in the United States and the rest of the world. Deaths from asthma more than doubled in the U.S. between 1977 and 1989. However, the death rate has not increased in the U.S. in the past decade.
Most cases of asthma cam be controlled. In severe cases, asthma episodes can be fatal.
Symptoms of asthma vary widely from person to person and within each person over time. Asthma episodes, or attacks, can range from mild to severe.
SYMPTOMS of asthma may include
- Chest tightness
- Rapid, shallow breathing or difficulty breathing
- Sleep disturbance
- Shortness of breath
- Tiring quickly during exercise
SYMPTOMS of asthma may develop or worsen when you
- Sleep (or during the night)
- Are exposed to triggers such as cold air or tobacco smoke
- Have a viral respiratory infection, such as respiratory synctial virus (RSV) or influenza.
- Have changes in hormones, such as during the later part of a woman's menstrual cycle or pregnancy.
- Eat foods that you are allergic to or take certain medications, such as aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications.
- Laugh or cry hard
The GOALS of treatment are to decrease the severity, frequency, and duration of asthma episodes and to treat episodes as they occur. Recognizing and treating asthma symptoms early may prevent severe symptoms that might require an emergency room visit or admission to the hospital. After you have been diagnosed with asthma, you will work with a health professional to find the combination of medications and trigger avoidance that will control your symptoms.
BECAUSE ASTHMA DEVELOPS from a complex interaction of genetics, environmental factors, and the reaction of the immune system, no one treatment will be effective for everyone. However, every asthma treatment plan includes.
- An asthma action plan. An action plan contains directions for managing asthma episodes at home. It helps you better control asthma by being aware of symptoms and knowing how to make quick decisions about treatment.
- A plan to deal with factors that can make asthma worse. Being around triggers increases symptoms. People with asthma need to avoid situations that expose them to irritants, such as smoke or air pollution, or to substances to which they may be allergic. Treatment for workplace asthma may require a job change.
- Medications. Medications to treat inflammation in the bronchial tubes help prevent symptoms or make them less severe. Inhaled corticosteroids are the preferred long-term treatment to reduce inflammation in people with persistent asthma. Also, medication is used. You also will take quick-relief medications (bronchodilators) to help you breathe during an asthma episode.
- Medical checkups. You will need regular medical checkups to go over your treatment plans and to test your lung function.
- A plan to treat other health problems. If you also have other health problems, such as inflammation and infection of the sinuses(sinusitis) or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), you will need treatment for those conditions.
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