Asthma is an inflammatory disease of the lungs.
It makes breathing difficult and brings on attacks of coughing, wheezing,
tightness in the chest and shortness of breath. According to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 25
million Americans suffer from asthma. It’s the most common chronic condition
among American children. About one in every 10 children has asthma.
To understand asthma, you need to understand a little about
what happens when you breathe. Normally, with every breath you take, air goes
through your nose and down into your throat, eventually making it to your
lungs. There are lots of small air passages in your lungs that help deliver
oxygen from the air into your bloodstream. Asthma symptoms occur when the
lining of these air passages swell and the muscles around them tighten. Mucus then
fills the airways, further reducing the amount of air that can pass through. These
conditions then bring on an asthma “attack” — the coughing and tightness
typical of asthma.
Asthma is sometimes referred to as bronchial
asthma since it affects the bronchi in the lungs. A distinction is made between
childhood asthma and adult-onset asthma, when symptoms don’t appear until at
least age 20. Other types of asthma are described below.
Allergic Asthma (Extrinsic Asthma)
Allergic asthma is triggered by allergens like:
- pet dander
- food preservatives
Allergic asthma is more likely to be seasonal
because it often goes hand-in-hand with season allergies.
Non-Allergic Asthma (Intrinsic Asthma)
Irritants in the air not related to allergies
trigger this type of asthma. This includes:
- burning wood and
- air pollution
- air fresheners
- household cleaning
Cough-Variant Asthma (CVA)
Cough-variant asthma doesn’t have classic
asthma symptoms of wheezing and shortness of breath. CVA is characterized by a
persistent, dry cough. Cough-variant asthma can lead to full-blown asthma that includes
the other more common symptoms.
Exercise-Induced Asthma (EIA)
Exercise-induced asthma affects people during
or after physical activity. EIA can occur in people who are not sensitive to other
asthma triggers such as dust, pollen, and pet dander.
This type of asthma is characterized by asthma
symptoms that worsen at night. Triggers such as heartburn, pet dander, and dust
mites can cause bring on symptoms while sleeping.
Occupational asthma is a type of asthma induced
by triggers in the workplace. These include:
- animal proteins
- rubber latex
These irritants can exist in a wide range of
industries including farming, textiles, woodworking, and many manufacturing
there is no cure for asthma. On the other hand, there are many effective
treatments that can control asthma
symptoms. Lifestyle changes and medications can provide the help that an asthma
sufferer needs to live a healthy, symptom-free life. The key is to become
educated. The more you know about your type of asthma, what triggers your symptoms,
and what works for you, the better your quality of life will be.