Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. It causes wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and even coughing. Asthma affects people of all ages, but it most often starts during childhood.
The airways are tubes that carry air into and out of your lungs. These airways tend to react strongly to certain inhaled substances, which causes inflammation, making your airways swollen and very sensitive. When the airways react, the muscles around them tighten. This narrows the airways, causing less air to flow into the lungs.
Aside from this, cells in the airways might make more mucus than usual. Mucus is a sticky, thick liquid which can then narrow the airways even further. This chain reaction can result in asthma symptoms.
The exact cause of asthma is still unknown. Researchers think some genetic and environmental factors interact to cause asthma, most often early in life. Such factors include:
- An inherited tendency to develop allergies, called atopy (AT-o-pe)
- Parents who have asthma
- Certain respiratory infections during childhood
- Contact with some airborne allergens or exposure to some viral infections in infancy or in early childhood when the immune system was still developing
It should be taken note of that if asthma or atopy runs in your family, exposure to irritants (for example, tobacco smoke) may make your airways more reactive to substances in the air.
Long-term care is needed by people who have asthma. Successful asthma treatment requires that you take an active role in your care and follow your asthma action plan. Partner with your doctor to develop an asthma action plan. This plan will help you know when and how to take your medicines. It will also help you identify your asthma triggers and manage your disease if asthma symptoms worsen.
Most people who have asthma can successfully manage their symptoms by following their asthma action plans and having regular checkups. However, knowing when to seek emergency medical care is also important.
Aside from this, learn how to use your medicines correctly. If you take inhaled medicines, you should practice using your inhaler at your doctor's office. If you take long-term control medicines, take them daily as your doctor prescribes. Make sure to record your asthma symptoms as a way to track how well your asthma is controlled.
Similarly, have regular asthma check ups with your doctor so he or she can assess your level of asthma control and adjust your treatment as needed. Remember, the main goal of asthma treatment is to achieve the best control of your asthma using the least amount of medicine. This means that this may require frequent adjustments to your treatments.
If you find it hard to follow your asthma action plan or the plan isn't working well, let your health care team know right away. They will work with you to adjust your plan to better suit your needs. Lastly, get treatment for any other conditions that can interfere with your asthma management.
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