Asthma is a condition that affects the lungs. It causes episodes of breathlessness, wheezing, tightness of the chest, and coughing. Asthma can be treated by taking medicine and avoiding known triggers that cause attacks. Individuals with asthma can reduce the rate and frequency of episodes by taking medication or removing triggers in their environment that trigger episodes.
What Is Asthma?
In patients with asthma, the airways to the lung are often swollen and/or inflamed. This makes them sensitive to environmental factors, called “triggers.” These triggers can be related to the weather, or they can be things such as exposure to chemicals, smoke, pet dander, or dust.
Asthma can start at any age. Some patients may have asthma at a young age as their lungs develop, but the symptoms may disappear later in life. It is possible for them to return, however. In other cases, patients may develop asthma later in life altogether.
Types of Asthma
While asthma is commonly referred to as one disease, there are many different kinds. All types of asthma involve airway inflammation. However, different patterns of symptoms and the way the body processes triggers dictate which type of asthma a person has. Please note that while there are many types of asthma, but the two most common are allergic asthma and non-allergic asthma.
Allergic asthma is the most common type of asthma. It affects 90% of kids with childhood asthma and 50% of adults with asthma. Symptoms appear alongside allergens (allergy triggers) like dust mites, pollen, or mold. Allergens that can cause an asthmatic reaction include:
- Windblown pollen
- Mold spores
- Animal dander
- Dust mite feces
- Cockroach feces
Allergens are not the only thing that can make allergic asthma worse, however; irritants may trigger an asthma attack even if they do not produce an allergic reaction.
Common irritants include:
- Air pollution
- Strong odors
- Dusty rooms
Non-allergic asthma, also known as intrinsic-type asthma, means that suffers will experience asthmatic symptoms following an infection in the chest. Because the infections are typically viral, antibiotics are not useful in promoting healing. It may also be provoked by bacterial infections, which are often associated with sinusitis or bronchitis. In these infections, antibiotics are essential.
Symptoms can be provoked by weather changes, cold air, physical activity, indoor and outdoor pollutants, or perfumes and other strong odors. Non-allergy asthma is not caused by allergies. Thus, individuals with this condition produce negative allergy skin tests.
Who Is at Risk for Asthma?
Risk factors will also vary from person to person. However, a number of factors can contribute to your chances of developing asthma. Exposure to irritants and substances known to cause allergies can also trigger signs and symptoms of asthma.
What Are the Symptoms of Asthma?
Symptoms vary from person to person. One may have frequent asthma attacks with symptoms at specific times—such as during physical activity—while another may have symptoms all the time. These triggers can often be difficult to pinpoint, so keeping a diary of known and possible triggers is important.
Signs and symptoms may include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
- Pain in chest
- Trouble sleeping caused by coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath
- Whistling or wheezing sound while exhaling
- Coughing or wheezing attacks
Treatments for Asthma
Effective treatment of asthma requires keeping track of one’s symptoms and triggers to measure lung function. Use a diary to record shortness of breath, disturbed sleep patterns, tightness or pain in the chest, quick-relief inhaler use, and disruptions to work, school, or daily operations caused by asthma symptoms.
Long-term medications, such as inhaled corticosteroids, are the most common and most important medicines used in asthma treatment. These medications are preventative and are used to treat airway inflammation that leads to asthma symptoms.
Quick-relief inhalers contain fast-acting medication, such as albuterol (Proventil HFA, Ventolin HFA) and are sometimes called rescue inhalers. These are used to quickly open airways to alleviate breathing problems. Accurate and prompt use of these medications can prevent or alleviate allergy attacks.
AMA medical group was founded to support every member of the community. If you have allergic or non-allergic asthma and are experiencing symptoms, don’t hesitate to contact us at (727) 331-8740 to schedule an appointment.