Asthma is a chronic lung condition that is caused by airway inflammation. The inflammation triggers airway muscles to contract resulting in symptoms such as wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. Allergies trigger asthma in many patients, however there are also forms of asthma that are non-allergic in nature.
Additional triggers include smoke, perfume, and pollution. Other conditions to consider when evaluating a patient with asthma symptoms include vocal cord problems, other chronic lung diseases and acid reflux.
Asthma evaluation involves testing for allergies and assessing airway function. Allergy testing performed by a board certified allergist can help detect allergens that contribute to lung inflammation. In addition to allergy testing, spirometry is required to better understand a patient's lung function. Exhaled nitric oxide is an additional test that can detect the presence of lung inflammation. Blood work is used to evaluate a patient's immune system and X-rays can determine the presence of lung abnormalities. These tests help determine the best treatment course for each patient.
Asthma treatment is determined by the severity and frequency of symptoms. The treatment of asthma includes various forms of medication, immunotherapy and the avoidance of known triggers. Types of asthma medication include oral, inhaled and injectable. Oral medications can help prevent and treat asthma attacks. Inhaled medications are categorized into immediate-acting relief inhalers and preventative corticosteroid inhalers.
Immediate acting inhalers temporarily improve breathing by opening constricted muscles surrounding the airways. Preventative corticosteroid inhalers can help prevent symptoms from developing by reducing airway inflammation. Injectable medications prevent asthma attacks from occurring by manipulating different parts of the immune system. Immunotherapy, or allergy shots can help control asthma in allergic patients by desensitization. Avoiding known triggers can help to prevent asthma symptoms from occurring.