You are not alone if you have asthma. There are about 13 million people in America who suffer from this lung disease. In some people, there may not be a cure for it, but the good news is that by working with their doctor, they can eliminate or control many of the symptoms. This means that they can lead a normal life.
The main symptoms of asthma are shortness of breath, (the feeling of being out of breath), wheezing, a dry cough, and tightness in the chest. During a severe attack, breathing becomes difficult, causing sweating, rapid heart beat, and anxiety. A severe attack can lead to respiratory failure.
There are two main types of asthma. A common type is when a person is allergic to pollens, house dust, air pollutants, animal fur, dander, or feathers. A person can also have an asthmatic attack triggered by a respiratory infection such as a cough, cold, or bronchitis. This illness frequently starts in childhood and tends to clear up or become less severe in early adulthood.
The second type of asthma is not caused by an allergy or a respiratory infection, but by some emotional factor such as stress or anxiety. This type tends to develop later in life.
When something triggers an asthma attack, the bronchial tube lining gets inflamed and swollen. This causes mucus to be produced, leaving less room for air to pass through. When air is completely blocked, death occurs.
Although there is no cure for asthma, attacks can be prevented to a large extent. For those who suffer due to allergies, tests can be given in order to find out what the individual is allergic to. For example, if a person finds out that pollen is the cause, then this person should avoid gardens and parks, or wherever there are trees and plants. In other words, once the cause is discovered, the person should avoid it.
After a person has taken tests to find out what is causing the asthma attacks, injections of the allergens can be performed, but it seems to have limited success rate. Preventative drugs, such as cromolyn sodium and inhaled corticosteroid taken several times a day is more effective. This has to be taken several times a day through an inhaler.
If a person has a severe attack of asthma where breathing is extremely difficult, this person will have to go to the hospital where oxygen is administered. Also certain drugs may be given intravenously.
The good news is that more than half of affected children grow out of asthma completely by the age of 21. Those who are older, the attacks become less severe, and with modern drug treatment, they can lead a normal life.
Source: A Practical Guide to Everyday Health Decisions
The American Medical Association, Encyclopedia of Medicine, page 137