Asthma is a long-lasting inflammatory lung disease, characterized by:
Constriction of the airways in the lungs
Swelling of the lining of the bronchial tubes in the lungs
Secretion of excessive amounts of thick mucus
This inflammation is activated by irritants or allergens, called triggers. As a result, you may have trouble breathing, be short of breath, wheeze and cough. Sometimes your symptoms can become severe enough to warrant treatment in an emergency room.
Asthma usually begins in childhood, although onset in adulthood is not uncommon. About 20 million people in the United States have asthma. And more than 70 percent of people with asthma have allergies.
Treatment focuses on:
"Rescue," usually by means of a device called an inhaler when your symptoms are severe enough to cause trouble breathing.
Prevention of symptoms, by a combination of managing triggers (eliminating dust, for example) and medications.
There is no known cure for asthma. In most people, symptoms get less severe as they get older. However, asthma can be a complication for older adults who develop other respiratory problems, such as emphysema. Effective management of your condition can help you live a healthy and full life.