Asthma is a lung disease that inflames and narrows your airways to make breathing difficult. Shortness of breath or a whistling, wheezing sound when you breathe can mean you have this common, chronic lung disease. Your doctor can diagnose this condition and recommend a treatment course to help you breathe easier.
Airways, otherwise known as bronchial tubes, carry air from the outside world into your lungs. In asthma, these bronchial tubes are always inflamed, which makes it difficult for air to move in and out of your lungs.
Inflammation also makes these airways very sensitive. These hypersensitive airways tend to react strongly to certain substances you may inhale. When airways react, the muscles around these airways tighten; this tightness reduces the amount of air that enters your lungs. Meanwhile, the inflammation and sensitivity may cause the cells lining the airway to produce more mucus than usual. This sticky thick fluid can narrow the airways even more. These events can cause symptoms.
Symptoms can occur every time there is inflammation of the airways. Symptoms typically include:
- Tightness in the chest
- Shortness of breath
The timing of these symptoms is closely associated with physical activity for many people with this lung problem. People with exercise-induced asthma experience symptoms only when active.
Asthma makes breathing difficult for about 26 million people in the United States. The breathing problem ranges from “mild intermittent,” with symptoms developing only a couple of days a week to “severe persistent” that causes symptoms throughout the day on most days and often at night. The condition can even be life threatening. While there is no cure for this condition, your doctor can help you manage and treat symptoms.
This condition requires diagnosis and treatment from general practitioner or lung doctor, known as a pulmonologist. To reach a diagnosis, your doctor will evaluate your symptoms, review your medical symptoms and listen to your lungs. Your doctor will order tests, such as chest X rays, to rule out other infection or other lung conditions.
A lung doctor may perform a pulmonary function test (PFT) to evaluate how well your lungs work. Spirometry measures the amount of air that comes out of your lungs when you exhale, for example, and the speed at which it moves. A peak flow test measures how hard you can blow out.
Treatment focuses on preventing trouble symptoms, reducing the need for quick-relief medications, preventing asthma attacks, maintaining good lung function and allowing you to maintain your normal activities during the day and healthy sleep patterns at night.
Medications can control the symptoms of this disease. Long-term medications reduce airway inflammation to prevent symptoms. These medications include inhaled corticosteroids and theophylline pills. Quick-relief drugs can reduce symptoms during a flare-up. These quick-relief drugs, also known as rescue medication, include inhaled bronchodilators that open airways fast.
Contact O2 Pulmonary & Sleep Group
For more information on asthma, call O2 Pulmonary & Sleep Group at 214-865-7788 or contact our office online to schedule an appointment.