Asthma is an inflammatory condition of the lungs characterized by narrowing of the airway passages. This disease is at least partially reversible if treated with appropriate medications. Asthma, which is estimated to afflict over 20 million Americans, has many patterns of presentation and can occur at any age. Asthma symptoms commonly experienced include: shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing and coughing. As other medical diseases can cause similar symptoms, it is always important to be examined by a physician.
Asthma may be caused or triggered by allergic and non-allergic factors. Allergic factors include seasonal pollens, mold spores, dust mite and animal danders. Upon repeated exposure to these substances, the body forms allergic antibodies called IgE directed towards specific allergens. An important part of evaluating allergic asthma includes skin testing to allergens to determine if any allergic antibodies are responsible for aggravating symptoms of asthma. Skin tests are always interpreted in the context of the patient’s history as falsely positive tests occasionally occur.
Non-allergic factors that can trigger asthma include: smoke, cold air, exercise, upper respiratory viral infections, abrupt changes in weather and strong irritants such as cleaning solutions or fumes.
Patients may have a combination of allergic and non-allergic asthma. Stress and anxiety can aggravate both forms of this disease.
There are some patients who develop allergic asthma after exposure to certain chemicals in their work environment.
It is important for us to identify what factors trigger your asthma before appropriate treatment recommendations can be made. The treatment of asthma can range from simple avoidance measures to a variety of effective and safe medications. Allergen injections are often helpful in treating allergic asthma. When a treatment program is recommended it is very important that the physicians’ instructions be followed in order to get maximum relief and control of asthma symptoms. If asthma should worsen in the future for whatever reason, it is very important to call the office immediately for advice regarding required changes in your treatment. When these flares of asthma are treated early, severe asthma attacks, emergency room visits and hospitalization can usually be avoided.
If managed and treated properly, the vast majority of individuals with asthma can lead normal, active and productive lives.