Girl using an inhaler

Asthma is a breathing disorder that can be mild, severe or anywhere in between. It is characterized by narrowing and/or swelling of the airways and sometimes extra mucus production.

About one in 12 people in the United States (25 million) have asthma, and the numbers are growing every year.

Asthma cannot be cured, but symptoms can be controlled. At the Lung Center at UM BWMC, our lung specialists can provide the right medication to treat your asthma and help you design a plan to avoid asthma triggers.

Asthma Symptoms

In general, breathing is difficult and can trigger:

  • Coughing, especially at night
  • Wheezing (a whistling sound) with each breath
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or tightness

Some people experience asthma symptoms every day, while others may go days or weeks without having any symptoms. Others may only experience asthma during exercise or when they have a viral infection like a cold.

An asthma attack is when asthma symptoms suddenly get worse, caused by tightening of the muscles around the airways. The lining of the airways becomes swollen or inflamed, and a thick mucus is produced.

The causes can be different for each person. Some common causes include:

  • Certain perfumes
  • Having a cold
  • Pollen
  • Pollution
  • Smoke exposure
  • Stress
  • Weather changes

To help prevent an asthma attack, it is important to identify your triggers and learn how you can avoid them.

Asthma Treatments

Symptoms may change over time, so it is important to track your symptoms and work with an expert to adjust your treatment as needed.

Medications can help you manage your symptoms, as can avoiding triggers that cause asthma attacks.

Medications include:

  • Quick-relief medicines – Used to quickly relieve sudden symptoms
  • Long-term control medicines – Used to keep asthma under control on a day-to-day basis
  • Biologics – Used for people who have severe, persistent asthma

Most people take asthma medications using an inhaler (also known as a “puffer”) or nebulizer.

Asthma inhalers are hand-held devices that deliver medication directly to your lungs. Nebulizers, which are also known as “breathing machines,” turn liquid medication into a mist. You receive the medicine by breathing it in through a mask or mouthpiece.