What is Asthma?
Asthma is a condition that causes inflammation or swelling of your airways. The inflammation or swelling of the airways leads to breathing difficulties, which contribute to shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing. Asthma can range from a minor inconvenience to a severe life-threatening asthma attack. Approximately 25 to 30 million Americans have asthma.
Causes of Asthma
Whenever you breathe, air travels through your nose or mouth, down your throat, into your airways, and to the lungs. The air passages in your lungs then help transfer oxygen in the air to your blood. Asthma refers to a condition that causes your airways to swell, the muscles around your airways to tighten, and mucus to fill those airways. It can seriously interfere with your ability to breathe.
Scientists have not identified a single cause for asthma, but instead believe that it can develop from a multitude of other issues or conditions, including the following:
- Genetic predisposition - If you have a parent or blood relative with asthma, you are more likely to be affected by asthma as well.
- Multiple viral infections or exposure to allergens - If you have a history of viral infections, especially as a child, or if you have recurrent exposure to allergens, you may be at an increased risk for asthma.
- Repeated exposure to smoke or harmful chemicals - This may include first or secondhand smoking, exhaust fumes, or other pollutants.
- Weight issues - If you are overweight or obese, you have an increased risk of developing asthma.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Asthma
Most individuals affected by asthma experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing
- Coughing or wheezing
- Tightness in or around the chest area
- Feeling out of breath
If you are or have been experiencing these symptoms, visit your ENT specialist for proper diagnosis. Your ENT specialist will likely perform a physical examination, analyze your symptoms, consider family history, and potentially perform tests of your lung functions to determine if you are affected by asthma.
Treatments for Asthma
Asthma treatments generally consists of some form of the following:
- Breathing exercises
Breathing exercises recommended by your ENT specialist that are performed repeatedly can help to reduce asthma symptoms by increasing your total lung capacity.
Medications for treating asthma can either be for long-term treatment or immediate assistance for an asthma attack. Long-term treatment medications are usually taken daily to prevent symptoms before they occur. Immediate medications generally include the commonly seen inhalers or nebulizers and help with asthma attacks.