What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic and potentially life-threatening lung disease in which airways become inflamed and/or swollen, making it hard to breathe. An estimated 20 million Americans suffer from asthma. Of these, 10 million - including 3 million children - suffer specifically from allergic asthma. Yet, research shows that many people with asthma could better control their disease which would help reduce asthma symptoms or attacks.
The main symptoms of asthma are:
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the chest
- Cough lasting more than a week
What Causes Asthma?
People with asthma are supersensitive to substances that trigger their asthma:
- Flakes from the skin, hair, or feathers of dogs, cats, birds, and small rodents
- House dust mites
- Pollens from grass and trees and mold
- Molds (indoor and outdoor)
- Aspirin and Non Steroidal anti-inflammatories (Bruffin, Advil..)
- Cigarette smoke; scented products such as hair spray, cosmetics, and cleaning products; strong odors from fresh paint or cooking; automobile fumes; and air pollution
- Infections in the upper airway, such as colds
- Showing strong feelings (crying, laughing)
- Changes in weather and temperature.
What is a proper treatment?
With proper treatment most people with will be able to:
- Be active and participate in sports without having symptoms.
- Sleep through the night.
- Minimize asthma episodes (attacks)
- Have the best possible peak flow number-lungs that work well
- Avoid side effects from medicines
What You Need to Know About Medicines for Asthma
There are two kinds of medicines:
- Bronchodilators (Beta 2 agonists) are medicines that relax muscles that have tightened around the airways. They will relieve your asthma symptoms.
- Anti-inflammatory medicines (Ventolin, inhaled and oral corticosteroids) reduce or prevent swelling in the airways that caused your asthma symptoms.
How Are Asthma Medicines Prescribed?
Each patient's airways react to different triggers at different times and with different symptoms. As a result, asthma medicines must be prescribed for each person's special needs. This involves close work with your doctor and may take some time to find out which medicines work best for you.
Are Asthma Medicines Safe?
Asthma medicines are safe, if taken as directed. Some people are afraid that they will become addicted to their medicines. This is not true.
Tips for Correct Use of Medicine
- Take your bronchodilator medicine at the earliest sign that your asthma is getting worse. Watch out for early signs (a drop in your peak flow number which is a measure of lung function or feeling symptoms such as cough, chest tightness, wheezing, or being short of breath) so that asthma medicine can be started right away to relieve symptoms. An asthma episode is easier to stop if you take your medicine as soon as symptoms start.
- Take your anti-inflammatory medicines exactly the way your doctor recommends, even if you are not feeling symptoms. This will reduce airway swelling and will keep asthma episodes from starting. This medicine must be taken regularly for it to work well.
Is Your Asthma Allergic? Know Your IgE
Understanding allergic asthma
Allergic asthma is the most common form of asthma. Many of the symptoms of allergic and non-allergic asthma are the same (coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or rapid breathing, and chest tightness). However, allergic asthma is triggered by inhaling allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, pollens, mold, etc. Through a complex reaction, these allergens then cause the passages in the airways of the lungs to become inflamed and swollen. This results in coughing, wheezing and other asthma symptoms.
IgE, the cause of allergic asthma
Allergens are identified as a key cause of allergic asthma. But the real culprit in causing allergic asthma is the IgE antibody. The IgE antibody is produced by the body in response to allergen exposure. The combination of the IgE antibody with allergens results in the release of potent chemicals called mediators. The mediators cause the inflammation and swelling of the airways, resulting in the symptoms of asthma. This makes the antibody IgE the root cause of allergic asthma.
Getting diagnosed and seeking treatment
It is important for people with asthma to seek treatment from an asthma specialist. An asthma specialist, such as an allergist/immunologist, will identify your allergic triggers and develop a plan to help you avoid these allergens. Allergens cannot be totally avoided. Another way for you to control allergic asthma is to take a medication that binds IgE and prevents it from setting off the inflammatory response. Your doctor can provide you with more information on the treatment options that are best for you.
After reading through this information, take the quick quiz to help you learn whether you have allergic asthma. Then, armed with this information, talk to your doctor or find a physician who specializes in treating asthma and allergies to find out how to manage your allergic asthma.
Is Your Asthma Allergic?
The following questions are designed to help you discuss asthma or allergic asthma with your doctor. They are not intended to make a definitive diagnosis of either of these medical conditions.