Asthma is an inflammatory condition of the lungs, characterized by narrowing of the airway passages. This disease is at least partially reversible if treated with appropriate medications.
Asthma, which is estimated to afflict over 9 million Americans, has many patterns of presentation and can occur at any age. Commonly experienced symptoms of asthma include:
Since other diseases can cause similar symptoms, it is always important to be examined by a physician.
Asthma may be caused or triggered by allergic and non-allergic factors. Allergic factors or challenges include:
Upon repeated exposure to these substances, the body forms allergic antibodies called IgE, directed toward specific allergens. An important part of evaluating allergic asthma includes skin testing to allergens to determine if any allergic antibodies are responsible for aggravating symptoms of asthma. Skin tests are always interpreted in light of the patient's history, since falsely positive tests occasionally occur.
Non-allergic factors that can trigger asthma include:
There are some patients who develop allergic asthma after exposure to certain proteins and chemicals in their work environment. Some workers develop asthma in the workplace after exposure to irritating fumes.
Two principles guide asthma treatment:
When possible, factors which cause asthma to flare up should be identified and avoided if at all possible. It is very important that patients with asthma learn to recognize the early warning signs and symptoms of asthma attacks, and take appropriate actions before the disease gets worse.
Patients whose symptoms are frequent (more than twice a month) and/or who have evidence of airway obstruction should take anti-inflammatory asthma medications on a regular basis. When a treatment program is recommended, it is very important that the physician's instructions be followed in order to get the most relief and best control of asthma symptoms.
If asthma should worsen in the future for whatever reason, it is very important to call a physician immediately for advice regarding required changes in your treatment. When these flares of asthma are treated early, severe asthma attacks, emergency room visits, and hospitalizations can usually be avoided.
If managed and treated properly, the vast majority of individuals with asthma can lead normal, active, and productive lives.
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Moore, W.C., Meyers, D.A., Wenzel, S.E., Teague, W.G., Li, H., Li, X. et al. Identification of asthma phenotypes using cluster analysis in the Severe Asthma Research Program. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2010; 181: 315–323.
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Guidelines for Diagnosis Management of Asthma
Asthma: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
Asthma - Symptoms and causes