Asthma is a lung condition that causes breathing difficulties. It affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood, although it can also develop for the first time in adults. Asthma is a long-term condition for many people, particularly if it first develops when you're an adult. In children, it sometimes goes away or improves during the teenage years, but can come back later in life. The symptoms can usually be controlled with treatment. Most people will have normal, active lives, although some with more severe asthma may have restricted physical activity and other problems.
What is an asthma attack?
An asthma attack is a condition in which the lining of the airways swells. The muscles around the airways tighten and make the airways narrower. All of these changes in the lungs block the adequate flow of air, making it hard to breathe. Asthma "attack" or episode is a time of increased asthma symptoms. The symptoms can be mild or severe. Anyone can have a severe attack, even those with mild asthma. The attack can start suddenly or slowly. Sometimes, a mild attack may seem to go away but will come back a few hours later, and the second attack will be much worse than the first. Severe asthma symptoms need medical care immediately.
What are the common signs and symptoms during an asthma attack?
Not all people with asthma have the same symptoms; however, the most common symptoms are:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
- Cough lasting more than a week or that happens during the night or after exercise
- Severe persistent cough (sometimes coughing is the only symptom a patient may have)
- Symptoms worsen with cold
What are the common types of asthma?
The common types of asthma include:
- Childhood asthma: This usually occurs infants and children and typically resolves as individual ages. In some cases, it can progress into adulthood.
- Exercise-induced asthma: This triggered by vigorous exercise or prolonged physical activity. It may possibly improve with modifying the type of exercise and environment (for example, running indoors during winter, instead of running outdoors in colder weather).
- Occupational asthma: It is caused by irritants in the workplace, such as air pollution and dust. A change in the work environment may cause asthma symptoms to improve or go away.
- Allergy-induced asthma: Patients allergic to pet dander, pollen and smoke can take steps to avoid asthma attacks by avoiding the allergens.
What are the common treatments for asthma?
Asthma is usually treated by using an inhaler, a small device that allows patients to inhale medicines.
Types of inhalers include:
- Reliever inhalers: It is used when needed to quickly relieve asthma symptoms for a short time.
- Preventer inhalers: It is used every day to prevent asthma symptoms from occurring.
- Sometimes both the combination of inhalers may be used along with oral medications depending on the patient’s condition and asthma severity. The doctor may prescribe inhalers and pills. However, inhalers remain the choice of treatment in most of the asthma patients.
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