Asthma is a chronic (long term) disease that results in inflammation (swelling) of the airways. While there is no cure for this disease, proper medical care should allow most people to go about their daily activites without suffering from asthma symptoms.
What is an Asthma AttackMost people with asthma do not have trouble breathing every day. However, certain things can trigger a reaction in asthmatic patients causing their airways to swell and constrict. Everybody has muscles that wrap around their airways. During an asthma attack these muscles can tighten up and squeeze the airway which results in wheezing, shortness of breath, and often a feeling of tightness in the chest. A bronchodilator is needed to relax the muscles that are squeezing the airway and provide quick relief.
What can Trigger an Asthma AttackAsthma attacks are usually caused by allergies, cold air, and/or excercise. It is very important for every asthmatic person to know what kind of things trigger their attacks. By staying away from the things that trigger attacks, people with asthma will greatly reduce their risk of having trouble breathing.
Diagnosing AsthmaIf your doctor feels like you might have asthma, he may have you do some breathing tests. The test may be a complete pulmonary function study or just a measurement of your peak flow with a peak flow meter. Usually a bronchodilator (a medicine that helps open your airways) is given during the test to find out if the airflow can be improved. If airflow improves after using a bronchodilator, then a diagnosis of asthma can be given. Your doctor may have to do other tests as well to help him/her decide if you have asthma.
Treatment for AsthmaPeople with asthma are normally treated with inhaled steroids and bronchodialtor medications. The root of the problem with asthma is a constant inflammation of the airways. Steroids are given to reduce the amount of inflammation. With proper use of steroids, asthma patients can expect to see their asthma symptoms improve over time and will have fewer and fewer attacks. Asthma patients should also use a peak flow meter daily to monitor how they are doing. Furthermore, it is very important to stay away from anything that may trigger an asthma attack. All of the above treatment will be in vain if you continue to trigger your airways to swell and constrict.
Goals of Asthma TherapyThe goal of asthma therapy is to allow you to have as normal a life as possible. This means no sleep disruptions due to asthma, as well as, no missed days of school or work because of symptoms. Proper management of asthma should result in normal to near-normal lung function and allow you to excercise and participate in physical activities.