Asthma


Chest | Pulmonology | Asthma (Disease)


Description

Asthma is the common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction, and bronchospasm. Although asthma can begin at any age, most adults with the condition developed it as children. More boys than girls are affected but, in adults, asthma is more common in women. Severe attacks of asthma are potentially life-threatening if they are not given immediate medical treatment.

Symptoms include: cough with or without sputum (phlegm) production; pulling in of the skin between the ribs when breathing (intercostal retractions); shortness of breath that gets worse with exercise or activity; wheezing, rapid pulse; severe anxiety due to shortness of breath; sweating; chest pain; tightness in the chest.

Causes and Risk factors

Asthma is caused by inflammation in the airways. In sensitive people, asthma symptoms can be triggered by breathing in allergy-causing substances called allergens or triggers. Common asthma triggers include: animals (pet hair or dander); dust; changes in weather, most often cold weather; chemicals in the air or in food; exercise; mold; pollen; respiratory infections, such as the common cold; strong emotions such as stress; tobacco smoke. Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) provoke asthma in some patients. Many people with asthma have a personal or family history of allergies, such as hay fever (allergic rhinitis) or eczema. Most people with asthma have attacks separated by symptom-free periods. Some people have long-term shortness of breath with episodes of increased shortness of breath. Either wheezing or a cough may be the main symptom.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Allergy testing may be helpful to identify allergens in people with persistent asthma. Other tests: chest x-ray, arterial blood gas, lung function tests.

The goal of treatment is to avoid the substances that trigger your symptoms and control airway inflammation....