What is asthma?
Asthma is an unfortunately common chronic lung condition afflicting approximately 25 million Americans. It causes inflammation and narrowing the airways, sometimes dangerously. Periods of coughing, shortness of breath, tightening of the chest, and wheezing are known as asthma attacks. These attacks are often, though not always, brought on by inhaling allergens.
Understanding the airways
To understand the effect asthma has on the body, it helps to understand a bit about the functioning of a healthy respiratory system. The airways are hollow tubes, surrounded by muscles. Ideally, these muscles expand and contract as needed to control the volume and route of the airflow. The walls of the airway should be thin, and coated with a very small amount of mucus.
In an asthmatic individual, the airways are perpetually inflamed. While the inflammation may not cause symptoms in between asthma attacks, it makes the tissues sensitive. When the airway reacts to something (a trigger), the inflammation increases, and the muscles tighten, restricting airflow. Excess mucus may also be created, exacerbating the difficulty in breathing.
Some of the most common asthma triggers include:
- Pet allergies
- Pollen allergies
- Harsh or allergy-related chemicals
- Dust or mold
- Emotional stress
- Physical exertion
- Breathing cold air
Controlling the symptoms
There are several treatment options, depending on your unique situation.
- Several oral medications are now available, which can help prevent asthma attacks.
- Controller medications may also be inhaled.
- Asthmatic individuals are often prescribed emergency inhalers to stop the symptoms of an attack.
- For many patients, the key to controlling asthma is identifying and controlling the allergic triggers.
Asthma symptoms can range from mild to potentially fatal. It is important to see a qualified specialist such as the physicians at Advanced Allergy & Asthma Associates and Food Allergy Center of Illinois. Controlling your asthma can allow you to live your life the way you want, and it could even save your life. Call us at (847) 888-8802 and schedule an appointment. We have three convenient locations, in Elgin and Crystal Lake.