Asthma is a chronic, or long-term, disease that inflames and narrows the airways of your lungs
Asthma causes a variety of symptoms that can worsen at any time, making breathing difficult. Asthma is a disease that cannot be cured, but it can be managed. Some days you may not have symptoms, but this doesn’t mean your asthma has gone away. Asthma doesn’t have to slow you down. There are things you can do
Causes of asthma
The main components of asthma are airway inflammation and airway constriction. Both components affect the airways of your lungs, making it more difficult for you to breathe.
You may still need to pay attention to how your asthma makes you feel, even when you don’t have many symptoms. The more severe the inflammation and constriction become, and the longer they go untreated, the worse your asthma symptoms may be and the harder they may be to control. You may need to monitor your asthma symptoms every day, because the disease is always with you. Work with your healthcare provider to understand your symptoms and how they can be managed.
When you have asthma, the airways of your lungs can be more sensitive to allergens and to irritants — like smoke and dust. This causes the immune system to overreact and produce persistent inflammation in the airways. Inflammation can cause a swelling of the lining of the airways, reducing the amount of air that you take in or breathe out. In some cases, too much thick mucus is produced, which further obstructs the airways.
Your airways may be inflamed even when you aren’t having symptoms. When the airways stay inflamed over time, they may become more sensitive to asthma triggers. Then, when you are exposed to triggers, it is possible that your inflammation and symptoms may get worse. It is important to monitor your symptoms so that you can recognize when they are getting worse.
If you have asthma, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
Wheezing – A whistling sound heard when breathing in or out.
Coughing – A cough that may not go away and often occurs or worsens at night or early morning.
Chest Tightness – Feeling as if something is squeezing or sitting on your chest.
Shortness of Breath – Feeling as though you can’t catch your breath. You may feel as though you are breathless.
Each person may experience different asthma symptoms. Symptoms can vary over time in both frequency (symptoms every few months to every day) and severity (mild to severe). You can play a very important role in managing your asthma by avoiding triggers, monitoring your symptoms, and doing other things as outlined by your healthcare provider.
Asthma can sometimes be hard to live with, but it doesn’t always have to be. Talk with your provider to learn how to best control your asthma.
Take the Asthma Control Test™ to assess how well controlled your asthma symptoms are, and bring the results with you when you talk to your healthcare provider. Be sure to mention which symptoms you’re experiencing and how often they’re occurring. This will help your healthcare provider determine the best way to manage your asthma.
When asthma symptoms can get worse
One of the most important things you can do to help manage your asthma is work with your healthcare provider to identify and minimize your exposure to your asthma triggers. Triggers are allergens, irritants, or conditions that may cause your asthma symptoms to worsen. It’s important to learn about asthma triggers.
Treatment of Asthma
Asthma treatment options
Many treatment options are available to help manage your asthma symptoms. Here you’ll find information on different types of asthma medications your healthcare provider may prescribe, other therapies your provider may recommend, and devices that may be used to deliver medications or monitor how you’re doing.
There are many types of asthma medications. Some medications reduce airway inflammation, while others relax the muscles around the airways to help relieve constriction. Both airway inflammation and airway constriction can cause asthma symptoms.
Some medicines are taken daily on a long-term basis for as long as your healthcare provider deems necessary, while other medications are taken as needed for the quick relief of sudden asthma symptoms, or during periods of worsening asthma. Talk with your provider about your treatment plan. Make sure you know how to take your medicines correctly.
How does your healthcare provider decide which medications are right for you?
Your healthcare provider will consider the severity of your asthma when prescribing medications. If you are on a long-term control medication, your healthcare provider will adjust your treatment as necessary based on your level of asthma control. One way to help find out if your asthma symptoms are well controlled is to take the Asthma Control Test™ (for ages 12 years and older) or the Childhood Asthma Control Test* (for ages 4 to 11 years). Discuss the test results with your healthcare provider.
Asthma medications have certain risks and side effects. Your healthcare provider will discuss these with you when determining which treatment option, if any, is right for you.
Select a category to learn more about the different medicines and how they work.