Asthma is a disease that affects the air passages in your lungs. NIAID says it makes them inflamed and swollen all the time, not just during an attack. During an attack, muscles around the airways tighten up, making the airways narrower so less air flows through. Inflammation increases, and the airways become more swollen and even narrower. Cells in the airways may also make more mucus than usual. This extra mucus also narrows the airways. These changes make it harder to breathe.
Asthma is a growing problem in the United States. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) says the prevalence of asthma has been increasing since the early 1980s. Today, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) says the number of Americans with asthma has grown to over 20 million.
Asthma has been increasing in all age, sex and racial groups. Asthma can also be deadly, with the risk of death being higher for African Americans and for males, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). In fact, men are one and a half times more likely to die from an asthma attack than women. One last statistic: in the last two decades, the death rate from asthma in 5-24 year olds has more than doubled. All this is why it’s essential to recognize the symptoms of asthma and get it treated.
Diagnosis & Treatment Options
What are the signs and symptoms of pulmonary arterial hypertension?
According to the American Medical Association (AMA), the symptoms of asthma can be mild or very severe. They include:
- wheezing – it sounds like you are whistling when you breathe
- feelings of chest tightness, like someone is sitting on your chest all the time
- shortness of breath
Asthma can be allergic or non-allergic. AAFA says the symptoms for both are similar; the difference is in the triggers that produce the symptoms.
The symptoms of allergic asthma are triggered by inhaled allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, pollen or mold.
Non-allergic asthma is triggered by factors not related to allergies, for example stress , exercise, cold air, dry air or hyperventilation. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) says potential irritants can include air pollutants, odors, sprays, changes in weather, viral infections, sinusitis, certain food additives, tobacco smoke and certain medications such as aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
How is asthma diagnosed diagnosed?
The diagnosis of asthma is based on a detailed medical history, a physical examination that focuses on the upper respiratory tract, chest, and skin, and confirmation of at least partially reversible airflow obstruction by spirometry. Historical episodes of symptoms of airway hyperresponsiveness or airflow obstruction strongly suggest the diagnosis.
NHLBI says asthma cannot be cured, but most people with asthma can control it so that they have few and infrequent symptoms and can live active lives. Your primary care provider will work with you to develop an asthma self-management plan for controlling your asthma on a daily basis and an emergency action plan for stopping asthma attacks. These plans will tell you what medicines you should take and other things you should do to keep your asthma under control. You should get and keep your action plan in writing, with step-by-step instructions for preventing and handling asthma attacks.
Instructions should include:
- all your contacts for asthma information and treatment
- how to manage medications – what to take and when to take them
- how and when to use your peak flow meter, and what actions to take based on its readings
- how to recognize an asthma attack
- when to get immediate emergency care
- how to avoid asthma triggers
The North Memorial Health Advantage
- When you wonder if you might have asthma, or you need help managing it, the most convenient and comfortable place to seek care is with a care team who already knows you.
- Primary care consultations are less time-intensive and more economical than seeing a specialist.
- In primary care the focus is on all of you, not just your condition.