Asthma is a chronic condition that affects the airways. It causes wheezing and can make it hard to breathe. Some triggers include exposure to an allergen or irritant, viruses, exercise, and emotional stress.
Causes the inside walls of the airways, or the bronchial tubes, to become swollen and inflamed.
What Does Asthma Feel Like?
Is marked by inflammation of the bronchial tubes, with extra sticky secretions inside the tubes. People have symptoms when the airways tighten, inflame, or fill with mucus.
There are three major signs of asthma:
- Airway blockage. When you breathe as usual, the bands of muscle around your airways are relaxed, and air moves freely. But when you have asthma, the muscles tighten. It’s harder for air to pass through.
- Inflammation. causes red, swollen bronchial tubes in your lungs. This inflammation can damage your lungs. Treating this is key to managing asthma in the long run.
- Airway irritability. People with asthma have sensitive airways that tend to overreact and narrow when they come into contact with even slight triggers.
These problems may cause symptoms such as:
- Coughing, especially at night or in the morning
- Wheezing, a whistling sound when you breathe
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness, pain, or pressure in your chest
- Trouble sleeping because of breathing problems
Asthma Causes and Triggers
Your airways react to things in the world around you. Doctors call these asthma triggers. They might cause symptoms or make them worse. Common asthma triggers include:
- Infections like sinusitis, colds, and the flu
- Allergens such as pollens, mold, pet dander, and dust mites
- Irritants like strong odors from perfumes or cleaning solutions
- Air pollution
- Tobacco smoke
- Cold air or changes in the weather, such as temperature or humidity
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Types of Asthma
Can develop in many different ways and for many different reasons, but the triggers are often the same.
- allergens, including dander and pollen
- irritants, such as smoke and chemicals
- other health conditions
- certain medications
- strong emotions
Is the most common chronic condition in children. It can develop at any age, but it is slightly more common in children than in adults.
According to the American Lung Association (ALA), some common triggers of childhood include:
- respiratory infections and colds
- cigarette smoke, including secondhand tobacco smoke
- air pollutants, such as ozone and particle pollution, both indoors and outside
- exposure to cold air
- sudden changes in temperature
Some factors that affect the risk of developing asthma in adulthood:
- respiratory illness
- allergies and exposure to allergens
- hormonal factors
What Is an Asthma Attack?
Is the episode in which bands of muscle around the airways are triggered to tighten. This tightening is called bronchospasm. During the attack, the lining of the airways becomes swollen or inflamed, and the cells lining the airways make more and thicker mucus than normal.
All of these things — bronchospasm, inflammation, and mucus production — cause symptoms such as trouble breathing, wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and trouble with normal daily activities.
Many Treatments can ease your symptoms. Your doctor will work with you to make an asthma action plan that will outline your treatment and medications. They might include:
- Inhaled corticosteroids. These medications treat asthma in the long term. That means you’ll take them every day to keep your asthma under control. They prevent and ease swelling inside your airways, and they may help your body make less mucus. You’ll use a device called an inhaler to get the medicine into your lungs. Common inhaled corticosteroids include:
- Beclomethasone (QVAR)
- Budesonide (Pulmicort)
- Fluticasone (Arnuity Ellipta, Armonair Respiclick, Flovent)
- Leukotriene modifiers. Another long-term treatment, these medications block leukotrienes, things in your body that trigger an asthma attack. You take them as a pill once a day. Common leukotriene modifiers include:
- Montelukast (Singulair)
- Zafirlukast (Accolate)
- Long-acting beta-agonists. These medications relax the muscle bands that surround your airways. You might hear them called bronchodilators. You’ll take these medications with an inhaler, even when you have no symptoms. They include:
- Ciclesonide (Alvesco)
- Formoterol (Perforomist)
- Mometasone (Asmanex)
- Salmeterol (Serevent)