Asthma in Teens and Adults - Topic Overview
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This topic provides
information about asthma in teens and adults. If you are looking for
information about asthma in children age 12 and younger, see the topic
Asthma in Children.
What is asthma?
Asthma causes swelling and
inflammation in the airways that lead to your lungs.
When asthma flares up, the airways tighten and become narrower. This keeps the
air from passing through easily and makes it hard for you to breathe. These
flare-ups are also called asthma attacks or exacerbations (say "ig-zas-er-BAY-shuns").
affects people in different ways. Some people have asthma attacks only during
allergy season, or when they breathe in cold air, or when they exercise. Others
have many bad attacks that send them to the doctor often.
you have few asthma attacks, you still need to treat your asthma. The swelling
and inflammation in your airways can lead to permanent changes in your airways
and harm your lungs.
Many people with asthma live active, full
lives. Even though asthma is a lifelong disease, treatment can control it and
keep you healthy.
What causes asthma?
Experts don't know exactly
what causes asthma. But there are some things we do know:
- Asthma runs in families.
is much more common in people who have allergies, though not everyone with
allergies gets asthma. And not everyone with asthma has allergies.
- Pollution may cause asthma or make it worse.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of asthma can be
mild or severe. You may have mild attacks now and then, or you may have severe
symptoms every day. Or you may have something in between. How often you have
symptoms can also change. When you have asthma, you may:
- Wheeze, making
a loud or soft whistling noise when you breathe in and out.
- Cough a lot.
- Feel tightness in your
- Feel short of breath.
- Have trouble sleeping
because of coughing or having a hard time breathing.
- Quickly get
tired during exercise.
Your symptoms may be worse at night.
asthma attacks can be life-threatening and need emergency treatment.
How is asthma diagnosed?
Along with doing a
physical exam and asking about your health, your doctor may order lung function
tests. These tests include:
Doctors use this test to diagnose and keep track of asthma. It measures how
quickly you can move air in and out of your lungs and how much air you
- Peak expiratory flow (PEF). This shows how much air you
can breathe out when you try your hardest.
- An exercise or
inhalation challenge. This test measures how your breathing is affected by exercise or after taking a medicine.
- A chest
X-ray, to see if another disease is causing your
- Allergy tests, if your doctor thinks your symptoms may be
caused by allergies.
You will need routine checkups with your doctor to keep
track of your asthma and decide on treatment.