Asthma affects almost 24 million Americans. It is a chronic disease that causes your airways to become inflamed, making it hard to breathe. There is no cure for asthma. The best way to manage asthma is to avoid triggers, take medications to prevent symptoms and prepare to treat asthma episodes if they occur.
Common symptoms are coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness. Asthma may lead to a medical emergency. It is important to know the signs of a severe asthma episode (or asthma attack).
A doctor may use a few different ways of testing for asthma. These include:
Taking a detailed medical history
A physical exam
Lung function tests
Chest or sinus X-ray
The doctor will look at the results from these tests. They will then decide what type of asthma you have. They will develop a treatment plan based on the type and severity of your symptoms.
People with asthma usually see a doctor that specializes in allergies or the immune system. You and your doctor will come up with a plan to treat your asthma. It often involves a blend of medication and avoiding triggers.
Asthma symptoms can appear when you are exposed to a trigger. A trigger is something you are sensitive to that makes your airways become inflamed. This causes swelling, mucous production and narrowing in your airways. Common asthma triggers are pollen, chemicals, extreme weather changes, smoke, dust mites, stress and exercise.
The best way to prevent an asthma episode, or attack, is to follow your treatment plan. Learn your triggers and avoid them. Take your allergy and asthma medicines when you should. Use your quick-acting medicine as soon as you start to notice symptoms.
Many people live normal lives with asthma if it’s properly managed. With a good treatment plan and guidance from your doctor, you can still do much of what you enjoy. For example, many professional athletes have asthma.
More Americans than ever before have asthma — about 24 million people in the U.S. have asthma. It is one of the most common and costly diseases.
Medical Review October 2015.
 Centers for Disease Control. Asthma. http://www.cdc.gov/asthma/default.htm. (Retrieved March 14, 2016)