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Asthma

What Is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects your airways. The airways are the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. If you have asthma, the inside walls of your airways are inflamed (swollen). The inflammation makes the airways very sensitive, and they tend to react strongly to things that you are allergic to or find irritating. When the airways react, they get narrower, and less air flows through to your lung tissue. This causes symptoms like wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe), coughing, chest tightness, and trouble breathing, especially at night and in the early morning.

Asthma cannot be cured, but most people with asthma can control it so that they have few and infrequent symptoms and can live active lives.

Asthama

Asthma attacks are not all the same—some are worse than others. In a severe asthma attack, the airways can close so much that not enough oxygen gets to vital organs. This condition is a medical emergency. People can die from severe asthma attacks.

So, if you have asthma, you should see your doctor regularly. You will need to learn what things cause your asthma symptoms and how to avoid them. Your doctor will also prescribe medicines to keep your asthma under control.

Causes

There are things in the environment that bring on your asthma symptoms and lead to asthma attacks. Some of the more common things include exercise, allergens, irritants, and viral infections. Some people have asthma only when they exercise or have a viral infection.

  • Animal dander (from the skin, hair, or feathers of animals)
  • Dust mites (contained in house dust)
  • Cockroaches
  • Pollen from trees and grass
  • Mold (indoor and outdoor)
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Air pollution
  • Cold air or changes in weather
  • Strong odors from painting or cooking
  • Scented products
  • Strong emotional expression (including crying or laughing hard) and stress
  • Medicines such as aspirin and beta-blockers
  • Sulfites in food (dried fruit) or beverages (wine)
  • A condition called gastro esophageal (GAS-tro-e-sof-o-JEE-al) reflux disease that causes heartburn and can worsen asthma symptoms, especially at night
  • Irritants or allergens that you may be exposed to at your work, such as special chemicals or dusts
  • Infections
  • Family history
  • Babies exposed to tobacco smoke are more likely to get asthma. If a woman is exposed to tobacco smoke during pregnancy, her baby may also be more likely to get asthma.
  • Obesity may be linked to asthma, as well as other health problems.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Wheezing
  • Usually begins suddenly
  • Comes in episodes
  • May be worse at night or in early morning
  • Gets worse with cold area, exercise, and heartburn (refiux)
  • May go away on its own
  • Is relieved by bronchodilators (drugs that open the airways)
  • Cough with or without sputum (phegm) production
  • Shortness of breath that gets worst with exercise or activity
  • Intercostal retraction (pulling of the skin between the ribs with breathing)


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