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    Treating Asthma: Preventing Damage to the Airways

    Asthma can cause permanent damage to your lungs if not treated early and well. Here's why - and what you can do.

    Asthma: A Surprisingly Silent Disease continued...

    Even if you do have symptoms, you may not have an accurate impression of how much they affect you.

    "There's no question that people with asthma tend to think they have much better control over their condition than they actually do," Edelman tells WebMD.

    In a 2005 poll of over 4,500 adults with asthma in the U.S. sponsored by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation, 88% said that their condition was "under control." But experts question their optimistic judgment. About 48% said that their symptoms disturbed their sleep. And 50% said that asthma has made them give up in the middle of a workout. Those are severe symptoms for people who supposedly have their condition "under control."

    While many adults have trouble assessing their own asthma, it's a special problem for children. They may not remember life without symptoms.

    "It's very easy for symptoms to be missed in kids," says Windom. "I see kids who don't like sports because they can't compete and get short of breath. But their parents don't realize what's going on. They assume that their children are just lazy couch potatoes, or that they just prefer computers to playing outside."

    Craig agrees. "Many kids who have always had asthma don't know any better," he tells WebMD. "They think that this is just how things are supposed to be. They don't complain, so no one around them knows about their symptoms."

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