Asthma

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs and airways affecting more than 15 million Americans. It is a long term condition that affects your airways.

When asthma flares up, your airways swell and tighten. This causes your airways to narrow so less air gets into your lungs, making it hard to breathe.

Asthma is characterized by inflammation that occurs when your bronchi come in contact with irritants or triggers. The lining of the bronchial tubes becomes inflamed and swollen, reducing the space available for airflow and excess mucous to build up which in turn causes it to become difficult to breathe.

Another component of asthma is bronchoconstriction. This occurs when bands of muscles surrounding your bronchial tubes tighten causing your airways to narrow. This results in chest tightness, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

Symptoms of Asthma

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs and airways affecting more than 15 million Americans. It is a long term condition that affects your airways. When asthma flares up, your airways swell and tighten. This causes your airways to narrow so less air gets into your lungs, making it hard to breathe.

Asthma is characterized by inflammation that occurs when your bronchi come in contact with irritants or triggers. The lining of the bronchial tubes becomes inflamed and swollen, reducing the space available for airflow and excess mucous to build up which in turn causes it to become difficult to breathe. 

Another component of asthma is bronchoconstriction. This occurs when bands of muscles surrounding your bronchial tubes tighten causing your airways to narrow. This results in chest tightness, wheezing, and shortness of breath. If you have asthma, you might not have all of these symptoms. And, your symptoms may change over time.

  • Wheezing: This is a whistling or squeaky sound when you breathe.
  • Coughing: It may be worse at night or early in the morning.
  • Tightness in your chest: This may feel like someone is squeezing your chest.
  • Fast or noisy breathing
  • Shortness of breath: You may feel short of breath, or feel like you can’t catch your breath.

What is an Asthma Attack?

An asthma attack is a sudden worsening of asthma symptoms caused by a tightening of muscles around the airways (bronchospasm). During an asthma attack, the lining of the airways becomes inflamed and mucus production increases. These changes can cause the following symptoms:

  • Severe wheezing
  • Uncontrollable coughing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Chest pain and pressure
  • Retractions or tightened neck and chest muscles
  • Difficulty talking and breathing
  • Low peak flow readings

Types of Asthma

There are several types of asthma. Below are the most common types of asthma we treat.

  • Allergic asthma
  • Exercise-induced asthma
  • Cough-variant asthma
  • Occupational asthma
  • Nighttime asthma

Diagnosis and Treatment for Asthma and Asthma Attacks

The diagnosis for asthma may include any of the following:

  • Physical exam
  • Review of your family’s health history
  • Pulmonary Function Testing (PFT)
  • Allergy testing

The treatment for asthma will be determined by your doctor and usually includes control, prevention and rescue medications for management of asthma symptoms and attacks along with the creation of a customized asthma action plan.

Learn more about asthma medications.

To learn more visit these websites.

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI)
American Lung Association or 1-800-LUNGUSA

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)

To schedule an appointment with an asthma specialist, call 1-800-778-9923 or visit the Allergy & Asthma Center location near you.