Asthma is a chronic disease affecting the airways, which carry air in and out of your lungs. Asthmatics have inflamed, or swollen, airways which makes them very sensitive. This causes increased reaction to allergens and other irritants such as cigarette smoke.
When the airways react, less air flows through the lungs. This causes wheezing, coughing, a tightness in the chest and trouble breathing. As a result, asthma is a potentially life-threatening condition that must be treated very seriously.
There are two main types of asthma: allergic (extrinsic) and non-allergic (intrinsic). Allergic asthma is just like it sounds. It is triggered by inhaled allergens and is partly reversible with medication. Allergic asthma is the most common form of the disease, experienced by more than 50 percent of all asthma sufferers.
Non-allergic or intrinsic asthma is triggered by factors not related to allergies and the immune system is not involved in the reaction. Symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness are similar for both types of the condition.
Although asthma and allergies often go hand in hand, there are less asthma sufferers than allergy sufferers in the United States. The disease's effects can be more serious. For example, every day 40,000 people miss school or work because of asthma, 30,000 suffer an asthma attack and 5,000 people visit the hospital due to asthma.
Additional research still needs to be done to fully understand how to prevent, treat and cure asthma. With proper management, asthmatics often live healthy and active lives.
Each case of asthma is different and must be treated with a doctor's help. One thing that works for most is removing factors in your environment that tend to make asthma worse for the sufferer. Asthma medication comes in pill or inhaler form. These are divided into two types: quick-relief and long-term control. Quick-relief treatments control immediate symptoms of an asthma episode. These include bronchodilators such as Albuterol. Long-term medications such as corticosteroids like Prednisone help lessen the frequency and severity of episodes over time.
Truthfully, the best defense against asthma is knowledge. By learning as much as you can about the disease and working with your doctor to create a daily asthma self-management plan, you can learn how to reduce triggers, keep episodes to a minumum and treat an attack before it gets out of hand.
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