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What is Asthma by Rabia Khan

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Asthma is a lifelong disease that affects the lungs and causes difficulty in breathing normally. While there is no cure for Asthma, through proper care, it can be controlled leading to a healthy lifestyle.

When taking a breath, air passes through your throat and down into your lungs. Inside the lungs, there are tubes called airways that allow air to be passed through your lungs. However, with Asthma, those airways become swollen and red or in other words, inflamed. When the airways become inflamed, they become sensitive to things you are exposed to every day such as smoke, dust, weather, and pollutants. These are often referred to as “triggers”. When a person with asthma is exposed to any of these triggers, the airways produce extra mucus and begin to swell up and the airways become more narrow making it more difficult for air to move in and out of the lungs and the muscles surrounding the airways may begin to tighten. When this occurs it is called an asthma attack, asthma flare-up, or asthma episode.

While symptoms may differ from person to person, they can range anywhere from mild to severe. Some common symptoms include shortness of breath, any tightness or pain in the chest, any trouble sleeping that is caused by troubled breathing or coughing, and a whistling sound or wheezing when exhaling (This is a common symptom in children). Asthma symptoms may worsen in certain situations which include: Exercise-induced asthma is when asthma is worsened when the air is cold or dry, occupational asthma is when the workplace contains too much dust, chemical fumes, or gasses and allergy-induced asthma is triggered by dust, dander, or pollen.

While his cause of asthma is unknown, several factors may cause asthma such as genetics. Asthma has been known to run in families, if a parent has asthma then any children are more likely to have asthma. Respiratory infections may lead to asthma. If any damage occurs to the lungs when they are developing during early childhood, it may impact how the lungs function in the long term. Some factors can increase your chances of developing asthma such as having another allergic reaction, being overweight, being a smoker, being exposed to secondhand smoke, having a mother who smoked while pregnant, and having a low birth weight.

Before being diagnosed with asthma, a doctor will conduct several tests to determine how well the lungs are functioning. One test that may be given is Spirometry which estimates the narrowing of the bronchial tubes by seeing how much air can be exhaled after a deep breath and the speed of the breath. Another type of test is a peak flow test. This test is given by using a meter called a peak flow meter, which measures how hard you can exhale or breathe out. If the peak flow levels are below normal, then this is an indication that your lungs may not function properly. These tests are usually given before and after the use of a bronchodilator, which helps open up the airways. If the function of the lungs an improved, it is likely that you have asthma.

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While there is no cure for asthma, long-term control and prevention is a major component in stopping asthma attacks before they start. This includes recognizing what may be a trigger, and what can be done to avoid a trigger. There are also a variety of medications that can be used to treat asthma symptoms in the long term. Long-term medications for asthma are often taken daily and reduce the swelling of the airways. A type of long-term medication is theophylline which is a pill that is taken daily to reduce the tightening of muscles surrounding the airways in the lungs. There are also quick relief medications that are used for rapid relief from an asthma attack. A medication used for quick relief is a short-acting beta agonist commonly known as albuterol. These are often inhaled and rapidly reduce the symptoms of an asthma attack.

Living with asthma may be difficult. However, taking the proper medications and treatments will significantly reduce any asthma-related symptoms. Therefore making it possible to live a normal and healthy lifestyle.








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