Get Answers About Asthma and its Treatment

What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic lung condition that inflames and narrows the large and small airways that carry air in and out of our lungs, making it difficult to breathe. When a person suffers from asthma their airways become inflamed, causing the airways to become swollen and clogged. When this happens, people with asthma may have flare-up, or an "asthma attack."

What are the symptoms of asthma?

Common symptoms of asthma include:

  • Wheezing
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness
  • Increased mucus production

How are inflammation and asthma related?

Inflammation can occur in the lining of both the large and small airways of the lungs and is a major factor in asthma. When inflammation occurs, the airways can constrict and can become clogged with mucus. This can result in less room in the airways for air to move through. In a severe asthma attack, the airways can narrow so much that not enough oxygen can get into the blood that goes to vital organs. This is why it is important to talk to a doctor about being on a treatment that controls the inflammation in your lungs.

Is there a medicine that can cure my asthma?

Unfortunately, there is no cure tor asthma, but it can be controlled with proper treatment and by avoiding certain asthma "triggers". It's important to work closely with your doctor to determine appropriate treatment options as symptoms and disease severity vary for each person.

What medications are used to treat asthma?

Asthma medications can be classified in two categories.

  • Long-term controller (preventative or maintenance) medications that are taken on a daily basis to help control persistent asthma and help prevent inflammation in the airways. Controller medicines should not be used to relieve sudden symptoms or for asthma attacks.

  • Quick-relief medications that are used to relieve asthma symptoms. They help by relaxing the muscles in and around the airways during an asthma attack. Unlike controller medications, quick-relief medications do not help prevent the symptoms of persistent asthma.

What are some asthma triggers?

If you have asthma, it is important to be aware of things in your environment that tend to make asthma worse. These factors or triggers vary from person to person and can include:

  • Allergens
  • Tobacco smoke - both active and passive can trigger asthma
  • Exercise
  • Cold air, wind, rain and sudden changes in the weather
  • Paint fumes, smog, aerosol sprays and perfume
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Some medications

Each case of asthma is unique. If you have asthma, it is important to keep track of the factors that you know will trigger asthma episodes. If you suffer from persistent asthma, it is also important to take your daily maintenance medication as prescribed by your doctor to help prevent the symptoms of asthma from occurring.

Can people die from asthma?

Unfortunately, yes. Each day, 9 people in the United States die from asthma. However, with proper treatment and management, most people should be able to keep their asthma under control to avoid life-threatening asthma attacks. It is vital that all people with asthma follow their doctor's instructions and keep their quick-relief medications current and handy.

How do I know if asthma is controlled?

With proper medical treatment, asthma symptoms should not:

  • Interfere with daily activities
  • Wake you up at night
  • Cause you to miss school or work
  • Cause you to wheeze during strenuous physical activities
  • Send you to the emergency room

If you find that you or your child are using a quick-relief inhaler more than twice a week, your asthma is not controlled and you should talk with your doctor about the next steps in your treatment plan.

How frequently should I visit my doctor to discuss my asthma?

You should schedule regular visits with your doctor every six months or less. If you find that there is an increase in your symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor right away to see if your treatment plan needs to be adjusted.

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