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.
Advanced Allergy & Asthma AssociatesDr. Noga Askenazi | Dr. Eugenia Hahn | Meredith Cirrincione
Dr. Noga Askenazi is a nationally recognized asthma and allergy specialist who is board certified in pediatric and adult allergy. Her areas of special interest are innovative treatment of rashes, sinusitis, food allergies, asthma and immune disorders. She was past President of the ISAAI (Illinois Society of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology), works on state and national committees for advancement of the allergy field and is a consultant for Advocate, AMITA, Northwestern amongst other health care systems. Her joy is helping patients reach their goals after together determining best treatments. Her staff and patients are a chosen family, and she invests in their happiness. She enjoys gardening, biking and cooking to good music.
Dr. Eugenia Hahn is a highly recognized board certified allergist and immunologist who treats patients of all ages. Her areas of special interest are food allergy, eczema, and asthma. She is president of the Illinois Society of Allergy & Asthma, a National Committee leader of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, a member of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology working on new treatment options for patients. She is a consultant for Advocate, Northwestern, AMITA, Northwest Community healthcare systems amongst many others. Her patients mean everything to her as she takes pride in finding the why behind the problem. She enjoys reading and spending time with her family.
Meredith Cirrincione is a board certified Physician Assistant and specializes in treating allergies, with a focus on asthma, rashes, environmental allergies, chemical and food allergies. She holds a Masters in Physician Assistant Studies from The Chicago Medical School - Rosalind Franklin University of Health Sciences. She is a Fellow member of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, the Illinois Academy of Physician Assistants, and the Association of PAs in Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. She likes to approach things holistically. She is a strong patient advocate and adored by her patients. She enjoys singing, reading, cooking, and the great outdoors.