Asthma is a Chronic (long term) lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. Asthma causes recurring periods of wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe), chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing. The coughing often occurs at night or early in the morning. Asthma affects people of all ages but it most often starts during childhood.
To understand asthma, it helps to know how the airways work. The airways are tubes that carry air into and out of your lungs. People who have asthma have inflamed airways. The inflammation makes the airway swollen and very sensitive. The airways tend to react strongly to certain inhaled substances.
When the airways react, the muscles around them tighten. This narrows the airways, causing less air to flow into the lungs. The swelling also can worsen, making the airways even narrower. Cells in the airways might make more mucus than usual. Mucus is a sticky, thick liquid that can further narrow the airways.
- Shortness of Breath
- Chest tightness or pain
- Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing.
- Whistling or wheezing sound when exhaling.
- Coughing or wheezing attacks that are worsened by a respiratory virus such as cold or flu.
Who is at Risk of Getting Asthma
Asthma affects people of all ages, but it most often starts during childhood.
Young children who often wheeze and have respiratory infections as well as certain other risk factors are at highest risk of developing asthma that continues beyond 6 years of age. The other risk factors include having allergies, eczema (an allergic skin condition), or parents who have asthma.
Some people develop asthma because of contact with certain chemical irritants or industrial dusts in the workplace. This type of asthma is called occupational asthma.
A number of factors are thought to increase your chances of developing asthma.
- Having blood relative with asthma
- Being overweight
- Being a smoker
- Exposure to second hand smoke.
- Exposure to exhaust fume or other types of pollution.
- Exposure to occupational triggers, such as chemicals used in farming, hairdressing and manufacturing.
With today’s knowledge and treatments, most people who have asthma are able to manage the disease.
As a patient suffering from asthma you need to:
Monitor your asthma after diagnosis and work with your doctor to keep it under control.
Review your treatment, meet with your doctor on regular basis, discuss symptoms and make any needed treatment adjustments
If your asthma gets worse contact your doctor immediately. Don’t try to solve the problem by taking more medication without consulting your doctor. It will only make matters worse.
Asthma is different for each person. Some of the triggers listed above may not affect you. Other triggers that do not affect you may not be on the list. Talk with your doctor about the things that seem to make your asthma worse.