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Suffering from Asthma? Here’s What You Should Know

Are you or any of your family members suffering from asthma? Learn more about the symptoms, causes, risks, treatments and prevention tips to control this common breathing problem.


Asthma is a chronic disease that causes inflammation of the air passages temporarily narrowing the airways that carry oxygen to the lungs making breathing difficult. Asthma causes a wheezing sound when you breathe, coughing, shortness of breath and chest tightness.

People who suffer asthma have inflamed airways, which means the airways get swollen and sensitive due to the inflammation. When the airways react, they tighten the muscles around them. This results in the airways narrowing, allowing for only a small amount of air to pass to the lungs. The swelling can aggravate the situation by making the airways narrower.

Research Related to Asthma

According to the reports, nearly 26 million Americans are affected by asthma symptoms, which comprises 19 million adults and 7 million children. According to the World Health Organization, asthma runs in families and majority of the cases are due to genetic susceptibility and the rest due to environmental factors.

Latest Findings about Asthma:

  • Asthma is on the rise in the US, people are still developing symptoms of asthma

  • From 2002 to 2007, asthma cost the US approximately $3,300 per person in medical expenses

  • More than 59% of the children and 33% of the adults who suffered asthmatic attacks missed school and work

Causes of Asthma

Research is still going on to pinpoint the exact cause of asthma. Most of the people get affected due to hereditary or environmental conditions while some people who are sensitive to the environment (full of allergens or triggers). Some examples of triggers are – dust mites, cockroach allergens, molds or pollens, and pet dander. Respiratory infection, cold air, stress, food sulfites, exercise, tobacco smoke and other air pollutants also trigger asthma symptoms.

Symptoms of Asthma

Asthma is characterized by the inflammation of the bronchial tubes and increased production of sticky secretions inside the tubes. People start experiencing asthma symptoms when the airways get tightened, inflamed or filled with mucus. Some of the common symptoms of asthma include:

  • Wheezing

  • Coughing

  • Chest pain, pressure or tightness

  • Shortness of breath

Not everyone with asthma faces the same symptoms as you may also face different symptoms at different times.

Early Symptoms of Asthma

The early signs of asthma are not severe enough to make you visit the doctor. You can carry on your daily responsibilities or duties with much ease. Here are some of the early warning signs of asthma:

  • Coughing frequently at night

  • Shortness of breath or loss of breath

  • Fatigue or feeling weak while working out

  • Coughing and wheezing after exercise

  • Mood swings

  • Uncomfortable sleep

  • Signs of allergies and cold (cough, congestion, sore throat and headache)

Asthma Attack

If symptoms worsen, this vicious attack can occur and is characterized by the tightening of muscles surrounding the airways. This tightening is known as bronchospasm. The lining of the airways becomes swollen during the asthma attack and thicker mucus is produced.

Some other symptoms of an asthma attack include:

  • Difficulty while talking

  • Unstoppable coughing

  • Rapid breathing

  • Pain in the chest

  • Wheezing while breathing in or out

  • Tightened chest and neck muscles called retractions

  • Panic or anxiety feeling

  • Sweaty and pale face

  • Blue fingernails and lips

Risk Factors of Asthma

Asthma is linked with various risk factors and chronic ailments:

  • Non-modifiable risk factors like genetic predisposition

  • Modifiable risk factors such as tobacco use, air pollution, weight gain and unhealthy diet regimen

  • Other risk factors such as allergic rhinitis

Risk factors vary depending on person’s age and the type of asthma.

Diagnosis of Asthma

Your doctor will ask you certain questions related to family medical history, symptoms and what triggers your symptoms. After finding out these details, he will do a physical exam and other asthma tests. He may perform one or more of the following tests for accurate asthma diagnosis.

  • Spirometry- It is a lung function test that checks how your lungs are functioning and measures how much air you can exhale. It also monitors how you are responding to asthma medications.

  • Peak Flow Testing- It is a self-assessment test that is used to evaluate lung function. When the peak flow measurement drops, it indicates an obstruction in your airways.

  • Chest X-ray- It is used to find out if the symptoms are caused due to other conditions like pneumonia. A chest X-ray will also help in clarifying the problem if the asthma treatment is not working as expected.

  • Bronchoprovocation Test- This test is used to measure how sensitive your airways are. It measures the functioning of lungs during physical activity or after you are given doses of special chemicals or cold air to breathe in.

  • Allergy Test- It is used to find out which allergens are affecting you.

  • Other Tests- to check whether you have other conditions with the same symptoms as asthma.

An accurate asthma diagnosis is important for effective asthma treatment.

Asthma Prevention Measures

People suffering from asthma should try their best to reduce their exposure to asthma triggers. These triggers such as wheezing, coughing, breathing problems can make your problems worse. There is no full proof asthma cure, but you can still avoid an asthma attack.

You can keep a track of symptoms and environmental factors that you are exposed to by jotting them down in a diary. Whenever you have an attack, you can refer to your diary and see which particular factor or a combination of factors might have contributed to it. It would be beneficial if you keep visiting your doctor, seeking advice for asthma prevention.

Treatment of Asthma

There are many effective measures to control asthma- inhalers or puffers and nebulizers. Apart from that, there are two types of medicines available for treating asthma- long-term control medicines and quick-relief medicines.

  1. Long-term medicines are taken on a daily basis. The most popular medicine under this category is inhaled corticosteroids and it will relieve you of airway inflammation and swelling. Even if you take it daily, you won’t get addicted to it. It does have a side effect called thrush, which is a mouth infection.

  2. Quick or instant-relief medicines relieve you of asthma symptoms. There is an inhaler but it should not be used more than 2 days in a week. People mostly carry it wherever they go in order to use it in an emergency, but you must remember that it is not a replacement for long-term medicines.

Don’t ignore the symptoms of asthma, consult a doctor to prevent and overcome this common problem!

Newport Family Medicine is one of the most trusted healthcare firms in Newport Beach, California. We can help you with asthma diagnosis, medicines and important health tips. Call us at (949) 299-0326 to schedule an appointment.

Newport Family Medicine, located in Newport Beach, CA, offers full-service family practice from pregnancy through childhood and adulthood to maturity. We provide comprehensive health care for people of all age groups.

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