Asthma is an inflammatory disease of the airways to the lungs. It makes breathing difficult and can make some physical activities difficult or even impossible.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 27 million Americans have asthma. It’s the most common chronic condition among American children: 1 child out of every 12 has asthma.
Asthma symptoms occur when the lining of your airways swell and the muscles around them tighten. Mucus then fills the airways, further reducing the amount of air that can pass through.
These conditions then bring on an asthma “attack,” the coughing and tightness in your chest that is typical of asthma.
If you have asthma your airways are always inflamed. They become even more swollen and the muscles around the airways can tighten when something triggers your symptoms. This makes it difficult for air to move in and out of the lungs, causing symptoms such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
Although the actual cause of asthma is not known, many studies have shown that several factors can lead to the development and causes of asthma. These factors include:
- Link to Genetics. It is widely accepted that asthma is a disease that can be inherited. Asthma is associated with atopy, the genetic tendency to develop additional allergic disorders, including eczema (atopic dermatitis), allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis, and food allergy. Atopy causes a heightened sensitivity to common allergens, especially those that are in food and in the air.
- Childhood Development. Abnormal development and growth of the lungs can increase a person’s risk for developing asthma.
- The Immune System’s Role. Many studies have shown that children and adults with asthma have an immune system that responds differently from those who do not have asthma.
- Environmental Exposure. Frequent contact with possible allergens and irritants may increase your risk for developing asthma.
Treatments for asthma fall into three primary categories: rescue or first aid treatments, long-term asthma control medications and therapy to minimize triggers.
- Rescue Treatments. These medications should only be used in the event of an asthma attack. They provide quick relief to help you breathe again. Examples include bronchodilators or rescue inhalers and nebulizers.
- Long Term Medications. These medications should be taken regularly to control airway inflammation and prevent symptoms. Examples include inhaled corticosteroids, oral corticosteroids, long acting bronchodilators, and biologic therapies. Biologic therapies are newer treatments that target different molecules in the body that contribute to asthma.
- Allergy Immunotherapy. Over time, allergy shots and sublingual pills decrease sensitivity to environmental triggers of asthma. Allergy shots can reduce asthma symptoms, as well as medicine requirements in people with allergies to pollen, animal dander, mold and cockroaches.
Breathing exercises can also be used to help you get more air into and out of your lungs. Gradually, this may help increase lung capacity and cut down on severe asthma symptoms.
If you think the symptoms you’re experiencing could be a sign of a condition such as asthma, make an appointment to see an Asthma and Allergist in Boca Raton, FL. Your asthma and allergy specialist will determine the right treatment or combination of treatments for you based on the type and signs of asthma you have, your age, and your triggers. Schedule an appointment now with Dr. Amy B. Schiffman, contact her at 561-409-2800.