Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the airways in the lungs. If a person has asthma, the walls of the airways are swollen and inflamed. This inflammation makes the airways very sensitive, and they may react to things that they find irritating. As the symptoms worsen, it becomes an asthma attack.
What is an asthma attack?
An asthma attack is caused by the tightening of muscles around the airways in the lungs. These airways become even more irritated and swollen than usual and the cells in these airways begin producing thicker mucus. This inflammation and extra mucus reduces the amount of air that a person can breathe in and out. In a severe asthma attack, the airways can close so much that vital organs can’t get as much oxygen as they need.
What are the symptoms of an attack?
- Tightness in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Faster breathing
- Difficulty talking
Symptoms can vary in their severity. One time the symptoms may be very mild and the next time they may be so serious they become life threatening.
What causes asthma attacks?
Asthma attacks can be caused by a variety of irritants such as smoke, pet dander, pollen, mold, cleaning products, dust mites, exercise, air pollution and weather. Our allergy and asthma physician can help you identify your asthma triggers and help patients reduce their symptoms and attacks.
Who gets asthma?
If you suffer from asthma, you’re not alone! More than 30 million Americans have been diagnosed with it. It affects people of all ages and usually appears in childhood. It is more common in boys than in girls, but more adult women have it than adult men. Although there’s no way to predict who will develop asthma, there are some factors that may increase your chances:
- Heredity—if people in your family have asthma, hay fever (allergic rhinitis), or eczema, there is a higher chance you will have asthma.
- Age—as the most common chronic disease in children, asthma is the most common chronic disorder among children (under the age of 18). Asthma is more common in children than adults.
- Smoking—Adult asthma is more likely in smokers than in non-smokers and second- hand smoke can increase the risk in children.
- Living in an urban area—Pollution and smog are factors in asthma attacks. What treatment options are available?
Although asthma cannot be cured, it can be controlled with medication. There are two types of asthma medications: quick-relief and long-term control. Quick-relief medication is taken at the first signs of asthma symptoms. You will feel the effects of these medicines within minutes. Long-term control medicines are taken daily to prevent symptoms and attacks. The full effect of these medicines may not be felt for a few weeks.