Asthma (Az-muh) is a chronic disease that affects your airways. The airways are the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. If you have asthma, the inside walls of your airways are inflamed (swollen). The inflammation (IN-fla-MAY-shun) makes the airways very sensitive, and they tend to react strongly to things that you are allergic to or find irritating. When the airways react, they get narrower, and less air flows through to your lung tissue. This causes symptoms like wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe), coughing, chest tightness, and trouble breathing, especially at night and in the early morning.
Asthma cannot be cured, but most people with asthma can control it so that they have few and infrequent symptoms and can live active lives.
When your asthma symptoms become worse than usual, it is called an asthma episode or attack. During an asthma attack, muscles around the airways tighten up, making the airways narrower so less air flows through. Inflammation increases, and the airways become more swollen and even narrower. Cells in the airways may also make more mucus than usual. This extra mucus also narrows the airways. These changes make it harder to breathe.
Common asthma symptoms include:
Some things your doctor will ask about include:
Your doctor will listen to your breathing and look for signs of asthma or allergies.
Your doctor will probably use a device called a spirometer (speh-ROM-et-er) to check how your lungs are working. This test is called spirometry (speh-ROM-eh-tree). The test measures how much air you can blow out of your lungs after taking a deep breath, and how fast you can do it . The results will be lower than normal if your airways are inflamed and narrowed, or if the muscles around your airways have tightened up.
As part of the test, your doctor may give you a medicine that helps open narrowed airways to see if the medicine changes or improves your test results.
Spirometry is also used to check your asthma over time to see how you are doing.
Spirometry usually cannot be used in children younger than 5 years. If your child is younger than 5 years, the doctor may decide to try medicine for a while to see if the child's symptoms get better. If your spirometry results are normal but you have asthma symptoms, your doctor will probably want you to have other tests to see what else could be causing your symptoms.
Other tests, such as a chest x ray or an electrocardiogram, may be needed to find out if a foreign object or other lung diseases or heart disease could be causing your symptoms. A correct diagnosis is important because asthma is treated differently from other diseases with similar symptoms.
Depending on the results of your physical exam, medical history, and lung function tests, your doctor can determine how severe your asthma is. This is important because the severity of your asthma will determine how your asthma should be treated. One way for doctors to classify asthma severity is by considering how often you have symptoms when you are not taking any medicine or when your asthma is not well controlled.
If you have asthma, you may think you are doing just fine. After all, you do not have asthma attacks often. And when you have asthma symptoms, you use your fast-acting inhaler (your puffer or your rescue inhaler or quick-relief inhaler). But there is more to asthma control.
You may think your asthma is under control. But is it really? Ask yourself these quick questions to help find out.
A yes answer to 1 or more of these questions is a sign that your asthma may not really be under control. You can do more to help control your asthma. Talk with your doctor. Because you can help prevent asthma symptoms before they start.
Source from www.singulair.com