Asthma is a chronic lung disease that results in narrowed and inflamed airways. In infants and toddlers it is often called reactive airway disease (RAD). It typically appears in childhood and may persist lifelong, although a large percentage of children outgrow asthma. Asthma cannot be cured but for those who do not outgrow it, proper asthma care from specialists like the staff at Family Allergy and Asthma Care can help you manage your asthma and lead a normal life.
In asthmatic airways certain triggers like viruses, smoke, cold air or allergens trigger the muscle encircling the airway to constrict which is called “bronchospasm”. Following bronchospasm there is inflammation that can further narrow the airways and lead to chest tightness, shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing. This inflammatory response leads to production of mucous in the airways and often a chronic cough. Asthma can also occur after exposure to chemical irritants or industrial dusts.
The majority of people with asthma have other allergic conditions like nasal allergies (“hay fever”) or eczema and most have a family history of allergic disease or asthma. Asthma and wheezing is more common in boys in early childhood but more boys outgrow asthma than girls. More girls develop asthma during or after puberty and are statistically less likely to outgrow it.
Asthma can have a highly variable presentation. A chronic cough usually at night or in the early morning is one of the classic signs of asthma. Wheezing – a squeaking or whistling sound when you breathe – is another. People with asthma often report they are unable to catch their breath, feel short of breath or their chest feels constricted. In children sometimes the only symptom is a chronic cough.
Asthma is a clinical diagnosis which means that there is not a true “test” for it. The diagnosis is made by the presence of certain symptoms, findings on physical exam, family history and the results of lung function testing called spirometry. It is standard of care for all patients being diagnosed with asthma to have a lung function test as there are many other conditions that can mimic asthma. For that reason, it is critical that all patients with asthma symptoms see a lung specialist, like those at Family Allergy & Asthma Care.
Treatment of asthma typically includes 2 categories of medications called “rescue” inhalers and “controllers”. Rescue inhalers like Albuterol are bronchodilators that relax the constricted muscle around the airway. Because inflammation always follows bronchoconstriction, anti-inflammatory inhaled steroids help to control the disease and prevent future symptoms. Identifying triggers like airborne allergens and treating underlying allergic disease with avoidance strategies, allergy medication and sometime allergy injections can also help control asthma and prevent flare ups.
If you think you have asthma, please see one of our board-certified allergists at Family Allergy and Asthma Care. We have locations in both Denton and Flower Mound. Please call us at (972)539-0086 to set up your appointment today.