Your lungs are a system of branching tubes that carry the air you breathe. When you have asthma, the tubes become swollen and red. Just like a rash on your skin is itchy and painful, asthma is essentially a rash on the inside of your lungs. This is called inflammation. When your lungs are inflamed they become extra sensitive to many different things. These things are then called your asthma triggers. A trigger could be an infection, heavy exercise, the weather, smoke or allergies.
It is important to realize that inflammation is always present in asthma, even when you feel good. When you are exposed to your triggers, the inflammation gets worse. The airways of your lungs swell and produce extra mucous. This clogs the airways and makes it harder to breathe. Sometimes the muscles around the airways will tighten up and make it even harder to breathe. This is known as an asthma attack.
Some people think an attack is only a severe episode that sends the patient to the emergency room or to their doctor. But even mild symptoms are considered an attack and mean that your asthma is not under good control.
Asthma can begin at any age. Many people have asthma starting when they are very young. Others develop it later in life.
The exact cause of asthma is not known. There are probably many different factors that cause it to develop. There is definitely a genetic factor as asthma usually runs in families. But there are probably other factors that determine how it presents. Certain exposures in the environment or infections may predispose people to asthma. There is still much to learn.
There is no cure for asthma but fortunately it can be controlled. The first step is identifying what triggers your asthma and taking steps to reduce or eliminate these things. Reducing allergic triggers and irritants such as cigarette smoke are both very helpful.
Reducing infections by getting the recommended vaccinations and maintaining good health is also beneficial.
Exercise is good for your health so if this is an asthma trigger taking the proper precautions and treatments can allow almost any asthma patient to exercise as much as they want. There are many professional and Olympic athletes who succeed despite asthma!
When asthma persists despite reducing the main triggers then medications are used to reduce the airway inflammation and prevent attacks. There are many excellent medications which are used every day to control asthma and “as needed” medications designed to stop an attack in progress.
- Asthma is always there. Even when you feel fine your asthma is still present and can worsen unexpectedly at any time!
- Even a patient with mild asthma can have a severe attack at any time. An attack can even be life threatening!
- There is no cure for asthma, but it can be treated and controlled so you live a normal, healthy life with no limitations!