Health Concerns - Asthma
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What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic disease of the bronchial tubes in your lungs, and is characterized by tightening of the muscles surrounding the airways along with inflammation and irritation of the airways. Normally, air is taken into the body by breathing through the nose, then passing through the windpipe to the bronchial tubes of the lungs. At the end of the bronchial tubes are tiny air sacs called alveoli. These alveoli are responsible for air exchange to occur, thereby allowing normal levels of carbon dioxide and oxygen to occur in the body. People with asthma have the these airways become constricted and inflamed, which leads to symptoms such as wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath.

Asthma is very common, affecting 12-15 million Americans. It usually affects younger individuals, though it can occur at any age. Asthma is more commonly seen among individuals with allergies and exposure to tobacco smoke.

What triggers asthma?
In people with asthma, the airways are very sensitive to a variety of factors or ‘triggers’. When exposed to these triggers, the airways become irritated and begin to constrict. Inflammation and mucus production occurs followed by problems with breathing and symptoms of asthma. This triggering of events is sometimes called an asthma attack and can occur immediately after exposure to the trigger, or several days later.

There are many kinds of triggers. There are many triggers that can aggravate asthma symptoms, and they often differ from person to person. By recognizing triggers, individuals with asthma can learn an important tool in managing their asthma by limiting exposure to these irritating substances.

Common asthma triggers include:

  • Upper respiratory infections, including colds and the flu.
  • Allergens, including environmental allergies such as grass, pollens, mold, dust mites and pet dander.
  • Exercise
  • Passive cigarette smoke
  • Smoke from wood-burning appliances or fireplaces
  • Strong odors from perfumes, cleaning agents, etc.
  • Air pollution
  • Occupational dust and vapors
  • Weather, especially cold air and abrupt changes in temperature and humidity
  • Strong emotions: anxiety, crying, yelling, or laughing hard
  • Certain medications, including NSAID’s such as ibuprofen and naprosyn
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

How is asthma treated?
Once asthma develops, it can be controlled but not cured. Although not commonly fatal, it can become serious enough to be life-threatening if proper medical attention is not given. Fortunately, numerous medications are available by prescription that can achieve good asthma control. Working with your doctor to find the best medication for you, learning about your type of asthma, exploring and avoiding triggers are all involved with the optimal treatment of asthma.

Your doctor may also recommend using a device called a peak flow meter. The peak flow meter measures how much and how quickly air is exhaled from the lungs. It can alert you to changes in your breathing and the onset of asthma symptoms, which also may help identify triggers. Ask your doctor or asthma care provider if using a peak flow meter would be helpful for you.

There are two main categories of asthma medications:

  1. Anti-inflammatories: These medications are very important because they prevent asthma attacks on an ongoing basis. These medications work to reduce inflammation, swelling and mucus production resulting in airways that are less likely to be irritated by triggers. These medications need to be taken daily and may need to be taken for several weeks before they will begin to control asthma.
  2. Bronchodilators: These medications work by relaxing the constriction that occurs around the airways, resulting in better air exchange and improved breathing.

There are a variety of asthma medication and ways of taking them. Inhaled medications, in the form of metered dose inhalers, dry powder inhalers, or nebulizer treatments, are one way of taking asthma medications. Oral medications -- pills or liquids you swallow -- may also be prescribed.
Although asthma is a chronic lung disease, for most people it can be managed, allowing them to lead active lives. But treating asthma requires some work. You will need to learn a lot about the disease: what triggers asthma attacks, the different medicines used to treat it, how to monitor it, and how to prevent attacks. And you'll need to keep regular check-up appointments with your doctor. Don't hesitate to ask questions or reach out to others for support.

The information provided by MenopauseRx, Inc. is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health-care provider. Please consult your health-care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.