Asthma is a common lung condition which can cause wheezing and breathlessness. It can affect people of all ages and currently has no cure, but can be easily managed with little impact on everyday life.
What causes asthma?
Asthma usually develops in childhood, although some individuals may experience symptoms for the first time during adulthood. It is caused by swelling or inflammation of the breathing tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs, making the tubes highly sensitive, so they temporarily narrow. This is what causes the tightening feeling in the chest. Asthma can be triggered by things such as:
- allergies, such as house dust, animal fur or pollen
- smoke, pollution and cold air
- infections like colds or flu
Living with asthma
The main symptoms of asthma include wheezing when breathing, a tight feeling in the chest, coughing and breathlessness. Sometimes symptoms can temporarily get worse, which is what is known as an asthma attack. Asthma is usually the cause of these symptoms if they:
- happen often and regularly
- are worse at night and in the morning
- are triggered by exercise or an allergy
Asthma attacks occur when asthma gets worse temporarily, which can happen gradually or all of a sudden. An asthma attack can have symptoms such as:
- wheezing, coughing and chest tightness becoming severe and constant
- being too breathless to eat, speak or sleep
- breathing faster
- a fast heartbeat
- drowsiness, confusion, exhaustion or dizziness
- blue lips or fingers
Asthma is usually treated using an inhaler, which is a small device used to breathe in medicines. Reliever inhalers are used when required to relieve asthma symptoms for a short period of time, whilst preventer inhalers are used every day to prevent symptoms from occurring. Some individuals may also find that they need to take tablets too.