Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that’s characterized by spasms within the lung airways which cause breathing problems. Asthma sufferers don't have breathing problems much of the time, but during an asthma attack they're suddenly unable to breathe freely. Asthma attacks may happen only a few times a month or less for some people, while others have daily or nearly daily instances.
During an asthma attack, swelling within the airways makes a person unable to draw breath clearly. This means an asthma sufferer fights for air, wheezes, coughs, and may have pain in the chest area. All of these symptoms can combine to cause other problems like dizziness, disorientation, and panic.
People who suffer from asthma may have many different asthma attack triggers. Environmental triggers like cigarette smoke, pollen, and mold are quite common. Some people's asthma attacks are triggered by physical exertion, for example running. Very cold weather is also a fairly common trigger of asthma attacks in some people.
The treatment for asthma is personalized for the individual. Asthma can range from fairly mild to serious, and the treatment is tailored based on that. Most asthma sufferers benefit from preventive medications. These medications are often in inhaler form, which are used every day, whether the patient is currently showing symptoms or not. Preventive medications can reduce the severity and the frequency of asthma attacks. Rescue medications are also prescribed for many asthma sufferers. Rescue medications are typically in inhaler form as well. These medications are used when a person is having an asthma attack. The medication helps force the airways to open back up so the asthma sufferer can breathe again.
For patients whose asthma is caused by or closely tied to an allergy, regular allergy shots may be part of their treatment regimen. If a patient has a severe asthma attack, oral corticosteroids may be prescribed for the short term. This drug can strengthen the lungs after they've been damaged by asthma attacks. Patients should be aware that long-term use of oral corticosteroids can be damaging so it's used only in serious cases.
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