Asthma is a lung disease that makes the airways narrow when your lungs are exposed to certain irritants or “triggers”. Inflammation (swelling of the lining in the airways) is the reaction that occurs after exposure to your trigger and causes symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, chest tightness or wheezing.
Asthma can be controlled with proper evaluation and care. Your healthcare provider will work with you to determine what your triggers are and how to avoid or control them. Triggers can be allergens such as mold, pollen, dust mites and animal dander or air pollutants such as smoke, smog, strong odors or dust. Other asthma triggers such as weather, illness, food additives, medications, emotions, and exercise can also be managed with education and preparation.
Lung function tests (or spirometry) can be performed either in a physician’s office or in a hospital to assist with diagnosing asthma. A spirometer is a device that measures the amount and speed of the air you forcibly breathe out of your lungs. This test is useful in evaluating how different medications help your breathing.
There is also a device called a Peak Flow Meter that can be used at home to measure and monitor your asthma. If your asthma is not under control, medications can be taken to relieve symptoms. Some medications are taken daily to control inflammation. Your healthcare provider will assist you with determining if and when medication is necessary. With proper management, your asthma can be controlled and you can breathe more easily.