Asthma is a chronic condition that involves airway inflammation. It causes redness and irritation of the tissues inside the air passages that is always present, but increases when one comes in contact with external irritants. The increase in inflammation is what makes one’s airways susceptible to recurring bouts of decreased air flow. During periods of escalated inflammation, constriction of the muscles surrounding the air pipes causes the airflow to severely decrease, creating an asthma attack.
Asthma symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing, or painful breathing. Asthma related coughing occurs during attempting to take a deep breath and is sometimes accompanied by the ejection of sputum. Coughing alone does not constitute an asthma diagnosis however, if it is accompanied with other symptoms it could very well be asthma related. Shortness of breath due to asthma often manifests during periods of increased activity or high stress. Wheezing is also seen to accompany high emotions and a boost in physical exercise nevertheless; it does not always depend upon these factors. The breathing restriction involved in asthma related wheezing is often more severe than just a shortness of breath and the person affected experiences periods of intermittent affliction. Wheezing begins suddenly, is usually worse at night and in the morning, and can be enhanced by cold weather or heartburn as well as the previously mentioned activity and stress. It may go away without intervention or one may need a bronchodilator to help it subside. Chest tightness that is felt during asthma episodes can sometimes be confused as heart related however, a distinction is often observed. If you notice an inward pull of the skin between the ribs when inhaling, it is likely your chest tightness is asthma related. Painful breathing is often a result of a combination of the inflammation and constriction and is more prominent when breathing deeply.
People who have asthma often have allergies of some sort (although not all do) and this combination often leads to more severe cases because many asthma triggers are also common allergens. Typical influences that provoke asthma symptoms are animal hair and dander, dust, chemicals that are found in air or food, exercise, a change in weather, exposure to mold or pollen, respiratory sicknesses, extreme stress or excitement, and smoke inhalation (especially cigarette smoke). If you experience reactions to these triggers there is a good chance you may need to see a doctor.
Your physician will be able to assess your condition and provide you with asthma information as well as asthma treatment options. Mild to moderate cases of asthma are most commonly treated with inhaled corticosteroids, which is administered through a inhalation device used only during times of asthmatic distress. Severe cases of asthma are commonly treated with a combination of control medications (leukotriene receptor antagonist pills) and bronchodilator inhalers, but sometimes require the use of oxygen as well.
If your doctor concludes that asthma is the cause of breathing troubles he or she will most likely recommend one of the previously listed treatments as well as the development of a plan of action. This plan of action will be established by you and your doctor and will address ways that you can avoid triggers, how you should use your medications, and how to deal with an unexpected attack. Knowing asthma signs and triggers is the best way to manage your condition but avoidance of irritants is not always possible. The best thing you can do is have your medication on hand, use it as prescribed, and do what you can to diminish contact with whatever tends to take your breath away.