Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease characterized by inflammation and narrowing of the airways in the lungs. While symptoms of asthma may be present at all times, patients experience periods of exacerbation or flare-ups, in which their breathing is directly impacted.
People who have asthma can lead normal, fulfilling lives as long as their asthma is well-managed. The management of asthma requires help from the right healthcare provider and complete patient compliance with the established treatment plan. Ongoing evaluation and adaptation of the treatment plan are also required for successful long-term management.
The most common signs and symptoms of asthma include:
Some patients who have asthma may only experience one symptom, while other patients may experience all of the symptoms at the same time. Each patient’s experience with asthma is different, and each asthma attack can be different from the last one.
For most people, asthma attacks are difficult to detect before initial onset. At initial onset, symptoms may start gradually appearing. This is the time that it is crucial to seek treatment before symptoms become severe enough to cause a life-threatening emergency. Early warning signs of an attack include:
Patients who notice these symptoms should reference their asthma action plan to determine next steps, which usually include an increase in medication.
Patients who are suffering from an asthma attack that has not improved after the use of an inhaler or bronchodilator should seek emergency treatment right away. Attacks can escalate quickly.
Patients can decrease the chances of an emergency room visit by establishing a primary care doctor and following their asthma action plan. However, some asthma attacks are resistant to medications used at home and require an ER visit for adequate intervention and treatment.