Asthma is a disease affecting the airways that carry air to and from your lungs. People who suffer from this chronic condition (long-lasting or recurrent) are said to be asthmatic.
The inside walls of an asthmatic’s airways are swollen or inflamed. This swelling or inflammation makes the airways extremely sensitive to irritations and increases your susceptibility to an allergic reaction.
As inflammation causes the airways to become narrower, less air can pass through them, both to and from the lungs. Symptoms of the narrowing include wheezing (a hissing sound while breathing), chest tightness, breathing problems, and coughing. Asthmatics usually experience these symptoms most frequently during the night and the early morning.
In some asthma attacks, the airways are blocked such that oxygen fails to enter the lungs. This also prevents oxygen from entering the blood stream and traveling to the body’s vital organs. Asthma attacks of this type can be fatal, and the patient may require urgent hospitalization.
Asthma attacks can be mild, moderate, severe and very severe. At onset, an asthma attack does allow enough air to get into the lungs, but it does not let the carbon dioxide leave the lungs at a fast enough rate. Carbon dioxide – poisonous if not expelled – can build up in the lungs during a prolonged attack, lowering the amount of oxygen getting into your bloodstream.
These medication treats the airway inflammation that leads to asthma symptoms. It can also reduce or eliminate asthma flare-ups.
Asthma symptoms vary from person to person. You may have infrequent asthma attacks, have symptoms only at certain times — such as when exercising — or have symptoms all the time.
Asthma signs and symptoms include:
Shortness of breath.
Chest tightness or pain.
Wheezing when exhaling, which is a common sign of asthma in children.
Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing.
Coughing or wheezing attacks that are worsened by a respiratory virus, such as a cold or the flu.
Signs that your asthma is probably worsening include:
Asthma signs and symptoms that are more frequent and bothersome.
Increasing difficulty breathing, as measured with a device used to check how well your lungs are working (peak flow meter).
The need to use a quick-relief inhaler more often.
For some people, asthma signs and symptoms flare up in certain situations:
Exercise-induced asthma, which may be worse when the air is cold and dry.
Occupational asthma, triggered by workplace irritants such as chemical fumes, gases or dust.
Allergy-induced asthma, triggered by airborne substances, such as pollen, mold spores, cockroach waste, or particles of skin and dried saliva shed by pets (pet dander).
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