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Know More About Asthma
Net research by Sadia Hanif
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that makes breathing difficult. It causes symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing, cough, and chest tightness (some people get all of these symptoms, while others may only have cough, for example). It is the result of some known (allergens, occupational exposures) and some unknown factors. The following information is provided to answer commonly asked questions about Asthma.

What are the symptoms of asthma?

Typical symptoms include chest tightness, shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing. The symptoms can be brought on by certain exposures (irritants, allergens, exercise), or they can be persistent.

How is asthma diagnosed?

The diagnosis is best done by a visit to the doctor. The diagnosis is based on typical symptoms, the patient’s medical and family history, physical exam, and often with breathing tests.

What causes asthma?

Good question! We know that allergies (mostly to things in the air like pollens and dust mites) contribute to the asthma of many children and young to middle-aged adults. But there are many people who have asthma and no allergies at all. Although we are not sure of all the fundamental causes of asthma, we believe that both environmental and genetic factors play a role in the inflammation of the airways typical of asthma. 

Is asthma a serious disease?

Yes, it can be. Asthma is unique because the intensity of disease varies widely. Asthma can be merely an inconvenience in one person, and it can be a potentially life-threatening disease in another. A given individual may fall anywhere between these two points. Also, an asthmatic may move up or down this scale during the course of a lifetime - some lucky patients going into remission as they age. The overwhelming majority of asthmatics can be effectively be treated with medications (as well as anti-allergy measures) with minimal, if any, side effects. 

What different kinds of asthma medications are used?

There are many different types and brands of asthma drugs on the market. We believe it is helpful to classify the drugs to help understand how they are used. The two main types are bronchodilators and anti-inflammatory medications (steroid/cortisone-type medications and cromolyn-type medications). Two other types of medications - Leukotriene modifiers (e.g., Accolate‘ and Zyflo‘) and phosphodiesterase inhibitors (e.g. theophylline) - are difficult to classify since they seem to have properties of both bronchodilators and anti-inflammatory medications.

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