Asthma is a Common And Tedious Health Condition

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Asthma is a common condition, with over 3 million new cases being diagnosed each year in the United States. Asthma occurs when your airways swell or produce extra mucus, which can cause wheezing or make it difficult to breathe. Cases range in severity from very mild to quite severe. For a lot of patients, asthma is simply a mild nuisance that requires them to stop certain activities from time to time. For others, asthma is quite serious and frequently affects quality of life. Asthma is not a curable condition, but there are many ways to manage it. Throughout a patient's life, their asthma symptoms will typically change, so regular visits to the doctor to address changing symptoms is a must. Treating asthma quickly is vital to preventing long term lung damage.

Causes of Asthma

Since asthma is thought to be caused by a mix of genetic and environmental factors, it's unclear to physicians the exact cause. However, asthma has many triggers like:

  • Cold air
  • Physical activity or exercise
  • GERD, which is a type of acid reflux disease
  • Stress
  • Smoke or smog
  • The common cold, influenza, or bronchitis
  • Pollen, dust mites, or pet dander
  • Over the counter pain relievers
  • Foods and drinks containing sulfites like wine, shrimp, or dried fruit
  • Pests like cockroaches or mice
  • Cleaning products and disinfectant sprays
  • Mold
  • Sinus infections
  • Environments with high humidity

It's important to note that triggers vary from person to person, and asthma triggers are not a one size fits all. In fact, most asthma sufferers may only have a couple triggers like having a respiratory illness or physical activity.

Symptoms of Asthma

Much like its triggers, asthma may cause different symptoms for different patients, as well as differing levels of severity. Many people have symptoms that only flare during exercise or being exposed to allergens, so patients may not experience the same symptoms all the time. Some symptoms of asthma include:

  • Chest pain
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing when you exhale
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Coughing while sleeping
  • Wheezing attacks
  • Coughing that is worsened by the common cold or flu

Lots of people may only experience infrequent asthma attacks, while some of these symptoms may persist daily for people. For child asthmatics, it's quite typical to notice wheezing when they exhale, as this doesn't occur too frequently in adults.

Treating Asthma

Despite all these unpleasant symptoms, asthma is a very treatable condition. If your asthma is triggered by allergies, you may simply have to receive regular allergy shots or take biologic medications to control your symptoms. For short term relief for asthma, combination inhalers are a popular choice. There are also some fast acting pills you take orally. 

For patients with infrequent asthma attacks, they may be prescribed quick relief medications to use in a pinch. Fast reaction inhalers are the most common choice, but there are also more severe options for worse cases. If inhalers or oral medications don't help, some patients use a procedure use heat to prevent the airways from tightening by removing smooth muscle.