Asthma

Information in this section was largely excerpted from the following websites. For more information on asthma, go to one of these sites:
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Asthma/Asthma_WhatIs.html
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/tutorials/asthma/htm/index.htm
http://www.webmd.com/asthma/default.htm

What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic condition that affects your airways. The airways are the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. If you have asthma, the inside walls of your airways can be very sensitive, and they tend to react strongly to things such as colds, and things that you are allergic to or find irritating.

When your asthma symptoms become worse than usual, it is called an asthma episode or attack. When the airways react, they get narrower mostly because of inflammation, and less air flows through to your lung tissue. This causes symptoms like wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe), coughing, chest tightness, and trouble breathing, especially at night and in the early morning. Some people with asthma have symptoms only once every few months, others have symptoms every week, and still other people have symptoms every day.

Asthma cannot be cured, but most people with asthma can control it so that they have few and infrequent symptoms and can live active lives.

How do I get asthma?

Researchers still do not know what causes asthma, although they do know that if other people in your family have asthma, you are more likely to develop it.

What are the symptoms?

Common asthma symptoms include:

  • Coughing. Coughing from asthma is often worse at night or early in the morning, making it hard to sleep.
  • Wheezing. Wheezing is a whistling or squeaky sound when you breathe.
  • Chest tightness. This can feel like something is squeezing or sitting on your chest.
  • Shortness of breath. Some people say they can't catch their breath, or they feel breathless or out of breath. You may feel like you can't get enough air in or out of your lungs.
  • Faster breathing or noisy breathing.

What can I do to prevent asthma?

If you don't have asthma, there is no known way to prevent it, but many people do not have or get asthma.

If you have asthma, you can prevent asthma attacks by:

  • Learn about your asthma and how to control it.
  • Use medicines as directed by your doctor. These will help prevent or stop attacks.
  • Try to avoid things that make your asthma worse.
  • See your doctor regularly.
  • Follow your asthma self-management plan.

How do I treat asthma?

  • Learn about your asthma and how to control it.
  • Use medicines as directed by your doctor. These will help prevent or stop attacks.
  • If you want to talk about asthma, come to see us at the Young Men's Clinic.