begins during infancy or childhood but may start at any age and last throughout
your life. It can increase your risk for complications from lung and airway
infections, such as acute
At times, the
inflammation from asthma causes a narrowing of your
mucus production, resulting in asthma symptoms such as
shortness of breath.
The airways narrow when they overreact to
certain substances. These are known as asthma triggers and may include:
- Substances you are allergic to (allergens, such as
dust mites or
animal dander). Allergens cause long-term (chronic)
inflammation and may cause asthma symptoms.
- Environmental factors
that irritate your airways, such as smoke or cold air. Environmental factors
may lead to a tightening of the muscles that line the bronchial tubes (bronchospasm), which can trigger asthma
What triggers asthma symptoms varies from person to
person. When asthma is triggered by an allergen, it is called
When asthma symptoms
suddenly occur, it is called an
asthma attack (also called a flare-up or
exacerbation). Asthma attacks can occur rarely or frequently and may be mild to
severe. Although some asthma attacks occur very suddenly, many become worse
gradually over a period of several days. In general, you can take care of
symptoms at home by following your
asthma action plan, although a severe attack may
require emergency treatment and in rare cases can be fatal.
classified as intermittent, mild persistent, moderate
persistent, and severe persistent.
- People with intermittent asthma often have
symptoms only after being around a trigger.
- People with
intermittent asthma usually need medicines only during an asthma
- People with mild persistent or moderate persistent asthma
may not always have noticeable symptoms. But they need to take medicines daily
to control the long-term inflammation in their airways.
- People with
severe persistent asthma have symptoms almost all of the time. Their symptoms
need to be treated daily. These people are at increased risk for severe,
life-threatening asthma attacks known as
Asthma-even mild asthma-may result in changes to the airway
system (airway remodeling) and may speed up and make worse the natural decrease
in lung function that occurs as we age.3 And some experts believe asthma may
raise your risk for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).4
Sometimes asthma does not respond to treatment
because people are not taking their medicines, not taking them correctly, not
avoiding triggers, or otherwise not following their asthma action plan. Follow
your asthma action plan so you can keep your asthma from getting worse and
risk of death from asthma.
Asthma can affect your
pregnancy. It may occur for the first time during pregnancy, or it may change
When asthma is properly controlled, a pregnant
woman with asthma can have a normal pregnancy with little or no increased risk
to herself or her
fetus. But if the asthma is not well controlled, there
are risks to the pregnant woman and her fetus. The management of
asthma in pregnant women and nonpregnant women is
basically the same, although a pregnant woman may need to take different
medicines and needs to monitor the fetus's health as well as her own.