Asthma is an inflammatory condition of the airways in the lungs. This inflammation causes the airways to become hyper reactive, producing increased mucus, mucosal swelling and muscle contraction. These changes cause the airway to become blocked. Chest tightness, coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath occur. Asthma can be a life-threatening disease if not properly treated.

What are the symptoms of asthma?
The frequency and severity of symptoms vary from person to person. The first signs of an attack are acute episodes of wheezing, coughing, tightness or pressure in the chest, shortness of breath or symptoms that slowly get worse until the person has a hard time breathing.

During an acute attack, a person will have a fast heartbeat and respiratory rate. They will prefer to sit upright or lean forward. He or she may feel anxious or appear to be fighting for air.

If the attack is severs enough, the person may not be able to speak more than a few words at a time. Severe shortness of breath and low blood oxygen can occur requiring immediate medical attention.

What triggers an asthma attack?
Common triggers of asthma are:
-Smoking and exposure to others who smoke
-Environmental irritants

How is asthma diagnosed?
Your physician will take a medical history and perform a physical examination.
Additional testing may include:
-Blood tests
-Pulmonary function test
-Sputum specimen
-Chest X-ray
-Allergy testing

How is asthma treated?
Asthma is a lung condition that cannot be cured. The goal is to maximize lung function in order to prevent symptoms, maintain normal daily activities, and reduce the need for hospitalizations and doctor visits. Your physician will provide daily instructions and plans for managing an asthma attack. Treatment can range from inhalers to hospitalization requiring intravenous drugs. Asthma is controllable in most people with proper management.


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© 2015 The Center for Respiratory and Sleep Disorders