Asthma is a respiratory disease that causes the airways to become inflamed and increases the production of mucus in the airways and lungs. Inflammation inside the airways is triggered by irritants like dust, pollen, pet dander, molds, fumes, pollution, and even changes in temperature. Some people find their symptoms become worse with strenuous exercise. When you come in contact with these triggers, inflammation causes your airways to become constricted and narrowed, resulting in difficulty breathing. Inflammation also triggers increased production of mucus, which can make breathing even more difficult. The precise underlying cause of asthma isn’t known, but you can be more prone to having asthma if you have risk factors such as:
Symptoms of asthma include:
Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and they tend to be worse in the morning or after a period of inactivity.
Diagnosis of asthma begins with a review of your symptoms and medical history to look for potential risk factors. Then, Dr. McKenzie will listen to your lungs to check for congestion and wheezing. You may be asked to perform a simple breathing test using a device called a spirometer. During the test, you’ll need to blow into the spirometer, which measures how well you exhale, how much air your lungs can hold, and other factors. Dr. McKenzie also might order a chest X-ray to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.
Most people who have asthma will need medication to help control their symptoms during flare-ups. Most medications are delivered through inhalers, small portable devices you can carry with you. Inhalers use a sort of “trigger” to deliver a brief burst of medication to your airways. In more severe cases, you may need to use a nebulizer, a device that uses electricity to deliver a steady stream of medication to your airways over a short period. In both cases, you breathe in the medication through your mouth (some nebulizers use a mask that goes over your mouth and your nose). Avoiding triggers when possible and increasing your physical activity to improve your lung function can also help.
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