What is Asthma?
Asthma is defined as a chronic lung disease that can inflame and narrow the airways, causing symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. This narrowing should be reversible with medication in order to fit the definition of asthma.
- Asthma symptoms can vary in terms of type, frequency and severity. For this reason, treatment regimens are created for patients taking into account both maintenance of daily asthma symptoms, as well as controlling symptoms that are worse than usual (asthma flares).
- In order to better monitor symptoms away from the office, some patients are prescribed a Peak Flow Meter (PFM); this device allows patients to keep a record of the level of obstruction being experienced on average, as well as during symptom flares. A PFM will be accompanied by an Asthma Action Plan, which details the patient's daily medication regimen, as well as medications used to treat flares.
- Asthma has no cure, but with the proper avoidance measures and medication regimen, is very treatable.
Common Asthma Triggers
- Allergies can trigger asthma symptoms. Common allergens include house dust mites, animal dander, molds, pollen and cockroach droppings.
- Tobacco smoke is an irritant that often aggravates asthma.
- Air pollution, strong odors, or fumes.
- Exercise can often trigger asthma symptoms. This is called exercise-induced bronchocospasm (EIB).
- Medications, especially aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, and beta-blockers, which are used to treat heart disease, high blood pressure, migraine headaches or glaucoma.
- Emotional anxiety and stress may also increase asthma symptoms and trigger an attack.
- Illness, particularly viral and bacterial infections such as the common cold and sinusitis.
- Exposure to cold, dry air or weather changes.
- Acid reflux, with or without heartburn.
When in the office for evaluation, patients who are suspected of having, or have been diagnosed with asthma, will undergo Pulmonary Function Testing. This is a non-invasive test that measures how fast the air leaves the lungs, and gives the provider a better idea of actual airway compromise.