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Asthma


Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease which involves inflammation and narrowing of the airways. It affects 25 million people in our country* and is the most common chronic disease in children.

What is an asthma attack?

When exposed to certain triggers, the airways of an asthmatic become inflamed, excessive mucous is produced and the muscles of the airway walls begin to contract or spasm. These factors all lead to narrowing of the airways and make it difficult for the person to breathe.

What are asthma triggers?

Asthma triggers are factors that activate the inflammatory response in the airways that lead to an asthma attack.
Common triggers include:

  • Outdoor allergens such as pollen and mold
  • Indoor allergens such as dust and pet dander
  • Respiratory infections such as cold and flu
  • Exercise
  • Cold Air
  • Environmental irritants such as tobacco smoke, perfume and pollution

What are the symptoms of asthma?

Typical symptoms are:

  • Wheezing (whistling sound of air moving through narrowed airways)
  • Chest Tightness
  • Coughing (particularly at night and early morning)
  • Shortness of breath (difficulty breathing)

Not all asthmatics wheeze; there is a cough variant form of asthma in which coughing is the primary symptom.
Conversely, wheezing does not necessarily mean you have asthma as infections and exposure to certain chemicals can cause wheezing in a non-asthmatic person.

How is asthma diagnosed?

If asthma is suspected, your asthma specialist will ask you about your health and family history and perform a physical exam and breathing tests.  He or she may perform this exam before and after medication to determine your body’s response to treatment. Your physician may run other diagnostic tests such as allergy tests to determine your asthma triggers.

How is asthma classified?

Asthma is classified by the severity and frequency of symptoms. Asthma is said to be mild if your lung function is 80% or better, moderate if lung function is between 60-80% and severe if lung function is below 60%. If you suffer asthma episodes less than two times per week, your asthma is said to be “intermittent”. If you suffer asthma episodes more than twice per week, your asthma is considered “ persistent”.

Who gets asthma?

Asthma affects people of all ages, but it most often starts during childhood. Nationwide, more than 25 million people are known to have asthma.  About 1 in 10 children  have asthma and 1 in 12 adults have asthma. Women are more likely than men, and boys more likely than girls to have asthma.*  

How is asthma treated?

Treatment is determined on an individual basis as prescribed by your physician.  Please contact our office to schedule an appointment with one of our allergy and asthma specialists.

Is there a cure for asthma?

There is no cure for asthma; however many children will outgrow their asthma or have less severe symptoms as adults. People who develop asthma in adulthood tend to deal with it for the rest of their life.

What are the complications for asthma patients?

The complications of asthma include:

  • Restrictions in exercise and other activities
  • Sleep disturbances due to nighttime symptoms
  • Persistent cough
  • Permanent changes in the function of the lungs
  • Death due to acute attack

What can you do to prevent developing asthma?

There is no definitive way to prevent the development of asthma, but the following will lower your risk:

  • Avoid smoking and second hand smoke
  • Reduce air pollution in your home and work environment
  • Eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight
*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vital Signs, May 2011.

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