More than 30 million Americans have been diagnosed with asthma at one point in life. This fairly common disorder is caused by inflammation of the airways which makes breathing difficult.
An asthma attack can be brought on by a number of common triggers such as:
• Animal hair or fur
• Changes in temperature
• Airborne or foodborne chemicals
• Physical exertion
• Respiratory infections or the common cold
• Strong emotions, especially stress
• Aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs can worsen asthma in some patients
Typically, symptoms of asthma come and go with attacks, but some sufferers can experience longer periods of shortness of breath, wheezing, or coughing. An asthma attack may last minutes or days, and is generally marked by:
• Cough with no production of phlegm
• Intercostal retractions, or the pulling in of the skin between the ribs when breathing
• Shortness of breath that worsens with physical activity
• Abnormal breathing pattern
• Chest pain
• Nasal flaring
• Tightness in the chest
• Breathing stops temporarily
• Wheezing that usually begins suddenly and comes in episodes with symptom-free periods in between. Wheezing caused by asthma may be worse at night or in the morning, worsen with exercise, change in temperatures, and heartburn.
Seek emergency medical attention if the following symptoms occur:
• A bluish tinge to the lips and face
• Decreased alertness
• Extreme difficulty breathing
• Rapid pulse
• Severe anxiety caused by shortness of breath
Asthma is typically diagnosed by a chest x-ray, lung function and arterial blood tests, and peak flow measurements. Sometimes a physician may hear asthma-related sounds when listening to the lungs, but lung function is usually normal between attacks. Allergy tests can help identify asthma triggers.
The key to treating asthma is to avoid the triggers that set off attacks. Airway inflammation can be controlled by medication designed to prevent attacks and by quick-relief drugs used during attacks.
Complications from asthma may be severe, so schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider if you experience any of the symptoms listed above.
Asthma can affect anyone at any age. Some well-known asthma sufferers include Jason Alexander, Morgan Fairchild, Bob Hope, Diane Keaton, Ricki Lake, Lindsay Lohan, Martin Scorsese, Sharon Stone, Orson Welles, Bono, Billy Joel, and John F. Kennedy.
To read more about asthma, see below
Asthma Signs & Symptoms
Dr. Brownstein Talks Asthma
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