Asthma is a disease that affects the lungs and the ability to breathe. When someone has asthma, the airways become inflamed. A trigger can impact the muscles around the airway, causing them to swell and tighten. The result is difficulty breathing, as well as coughing, wheezing and chest tightness. In some cases, the disease can be dangerous and even life-threatening.
Who Gets Asthma?
Asthma often affects children, though people of all ages and genders can get it. In many cases, asthma is due to an allergic reaction. That's known as allergic asthma. Other times, a person may be affected by asthma during or after physical activity (exercise-induced asthma). People who inhale fumes or other harmful substances as part of their work may also experience a form known as occupational asthma.
Researchers aren’t sure just what causes asthma, but it does appear to have a genetic component. If someone in your family has asthma, then you are more likely to get it yourself.
Symptoms of Asthma
When people have asthma, their airways are always somewhat inflamed. But when someone experiences a trigger, whether it’s exercise, tree pollen or paint fumes, the inflammation becomes a lot worse. The airways constrict, and coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing ensue. Rescue medication is often needed to end the asthma attack.
Treatment of Asthma
It's important for anyone with asthma to work closely with a doctor to formulate an asthma management plan. Asthma medications have become quite effective, and most people with asthma can lead healthy, productive lives when they keep it managed.
There are two types of asthma medication: drugs for long-term control of the asthma and drugs for quick relief. The long-term control medications might be in pill form or in a form that's inhaled. The quick-relief types of medication -- also called rescue medications -- are medicine that's inhaled to help end the asthma attack as quickly as possible.
SOURCES: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention