Asthma is a long-lasting health problem. It is a change in how the lining of the airways of the lungs work. Asthma makes the airways narrow and makes it hard to breathe.
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The exact cause is not known. It is likely a mix of genetics and the environment.
Some things trigger symptoms in people with asthma, such as pollen, mold, and pet dander. It causes a reaction that makes it hard to breathe.
Things that may raise the risk of asthma are:
Some people may have mild asthma with few flare-ups. Others may have a severe asthma all the time. Symptoms may be:
- A tight chest
- Shortness of breath
- Problems breathing
- Feeling tired
- Problems sleeping
- Having a hard time exercising
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the lungs.
A spirometry test will be done to measure how much air is breathed in and out. It can also find out the amount and rate of air that can pass through a person's airways.
An asthma action plan will be used to help people control asthma and handle asthma attacks. Medicine and lifestyle changes will be a part of the plan. The goal of the plan is to lower the risk of asthma attacks. A second goal is to manage attacks and ease breathing.
Some medicine is taken on a regular basis. It may help to stop asthma tacks from starting. They cannot treat an attack when it happens. Medicine may be one or more of these:
- Inhaled corticosteroids—to prevent airway swelling
- Inhaled long-acting beta agonists—to keep airways relaxed
- Oral leukotriene modifiers—to prevent airway swelling, ease mucus, and open the airways
- Inhaled cromolyn or nedocromil—to prevent airways from swelling after contact with a trigger
- Biologic agents—if asthma is not controlled by other medicine
Other medicine can be used to treat an attack. These can help to open the airways and ease breathing::
- Inhaled quick-acting beta agonists and anticholinergic agents—to open the airways
- Corticosteroids pills—to ease severe swelling
Bronchial thermoplasty may be done for people with severe asthma. A tool is used to clear out excess muscle around the airway. It will help keep the airway more open during an attack.
These healthy habits may help to manage asthma:
- Reducing exposure to triggers
- Getting enough exercise
- Staying at a healthy weight
- Not smoking
Asthma cannot be prevented.
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
Allergy Asthma Information Association
The Lung Association
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Asthma stepwise management in adults and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/management/asthma-stepwise-management-in-adults-and-adolescents. Updated May 25, 2018. Accessed November 1, 2019.
Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) global strategy for asthma management and prevention. (GINA 2018)
11/2/2015 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114449/Asthma-in-adults-and-adolescents: Normansell R, Kew KM, et al. Sublingual immunotherapy for asthma. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Aug 28;8:CD011293.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD Last Updated: 11/1/2019