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August 9, 2017 | Allergy and Immunology
Asthma is a condition that causes the airways to narrow and swell, producing extra mucus. This can cause difficulty breathing and trigger coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.
There is no cure for asthma, but there are certain methods available to help control it—though these can change over time, as asthma often does. Here’s what you need to know about asthma.
Symptoms of asthma vary from case to case. Some people may have infrequent attacks, experience symptoms at only certain times or during certain events, or have symptoms all the time. These symptoms include:
There are also some signs that previous asthma symptoms might be worsening:
For some people, asthma is triggered by only certain situations, such as exercise, workplace irritants or airborne substances (allergy-induced asthma).
Severe asthma attacks can be life-threatening. Signs of an emergency include rapid worsening of breathing that doesn’t improve after using an inhaler or shortness of breath despite limited or no physical activity. Complications can include:
Exact causes of asthma are unclear, but they’re likely due to a combination of environmental and genetic factors. What is known for a fact is that asthma can be triggered by various irritants or substances. These triggers might include:
Factors that are thought to increase your chances of developing asthma include:
After diagnosis—possibly through one of a few tests to rule out other conditions—treatment will begin. Treatment is generally aimed at prevention and stopping asthma attacks before they can begin—it often involves recognizing triggers, then taking steps to avoid them. It can also include tracking breathing and monitoring whether medications are helping. In some cases, people use a quick-relief inhaler.
Medications might include:
Another treatment called bronchial thermoplasty is a possible option, but this is not widely available. It involves heating the insides of the airways over several visits.
There is no way to prevent asthma, but you can work with your doctor to manage the condition and prevent attacks. Here are some tips:
If you’re dealing with major asthma symptoms, your doctor can recommend an appropriate treatment plan for you.
“Asthma.” The Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/asthma/basics/definition/con-20026992
“Asthma Symptoms.” WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/asthma/guide/asthma-symptoms#1
The Live Better Team
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.