Asthma is a common condition that causes inflammation and constriction of the airways to the lungs. This narrowing causes the sufferer to have difficulty breathing, a feeling of tightness in the chest, wheezing and coughing. A narrowing event is known as an exacerbation and can occur on its own or due to exposure to a trigger like an allergen or cold weather or even exercise.
It is common for asthma sufferers to also have allergies. The causes behind asthma are not clear but there seems to be a genetic and environmental component to its incidence. There is no cure for asthma, but there are ways to mitigate the effects and risk. Non-drug therapy is mainly avoidance of allergens and other triggers known to the sufferer. In many instances, sufferers of asthma will require medication to help reopen their air passages during an exacerbation.
The most common medication used for immediate relief during an exacerbation is known as albuterol. It is a short-acting medication that is usually given as a pump spray and can quickly open the air passages. However, its effect is short-lived and the drug is limited to use for treatment.
Patients who suffer from frequent attacks are often placed on medications that reduce the occurrence of attacks. These include inhaled corticosteroids and long-acting beta-agonists. The inhaled corticosteroids reduce inflammation in the air passages which the long-acting beta-agonists work similarly to albuterol but have lasting effects. Neither of these medications help during an exacerbation and are only meant for prevention. Also, controlling allergies with medications such as antihistamines and leukotriene modifiers reduce the risk of an attack.
Each medication has side effects and risks that should be discussed with a doctor before starting. People concerned about having asthma can discuss with their concerns with their doctor for the doctor to check lung function by listening to the lungs’ breathing sounds. In addition, the doctor can measure the lung capacity using a peak flow meter that helps the doctor determine the amount of swelling in the air passages. The type of treatment the doctor recommends will depend on how often the sufferer has attacks and the severity of the attacks.
Uncontrolled asthma can permanently reduce lung function and lead to attacks severe enough to cause death. However, patients can have their asthma controlled by taking steps to prevent exposure to triggers and following the medication and action plan created with their doctors. Asthma is a dangerous and difficult disease, but well-controlled patients are capable of living successful lives.
Better health problem prevention starts with leading a healthier life.