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Asthma is a chronic lung condition, which causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways. The condition is very common and often starts in childhood. Although asthma is chronic, the frequency of attacks and severity of symptoms can vary greatly.
Asthma symptoms often occur due to an allergic reaction. Why some people develop allergies to certain substances in not fully understood. Risk factors for developing asthma include having certain respiratory infections as a young child and being exposed to lung irritates, such as cigarette smoke, early in life. The condition also appears to run in families. If you have a parent who has asthma, you also have an increased risk of developing the condition.
Symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. Increased mucus production and chest tightness may also develop. Symptoms may vary from mild to life threatening. In severe cases, the airways become so tight it is difficult to get air in and out of the lungs.
One reason to see an asthma doctor is to develop a comprehensive treatment plan. A comprehensive treatment plan will involve education on identifying and reducing attack triggers. Triggers are often allergens, such as mold or dust.
Your asthma doctor may also teach you how to use a peak flow meter. A peak flow meter is used to measure the amount of air you can blow out of your lungs. It is one tool which you can use daily to assess your breathing and symptoms.
In addition to developing ways to avoid asthma triggers, medications are often used to treat asthma. Medication will include fast-acting rescue medications, which are taken as soon as symptoms develop. During an attack, the airways become tight or narrow. Medication, such as bronchodilators, work quickly by relaxing the muscles of the airways. When the muscles are relaxed, they open and breathing is easier.
Another class of medications called steroids may also be used to treat asthma. Steroids work by decreasing inflammation in the lungs. Steroids may be prescribed to treat asthma attacks and prevent future symptoms.
Asthma symptoms can lead to missed work and school, feeling miserable and can even be life threatening in some cases. But it is possible to develop an effective treatment plan to manage symptoms and reduce flare-ups.