Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. Asthma causes recurring periods of wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe), chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing. The coughing often occurs at night or early in the morning.
Asthma has no cure. Even when you feel fine, you still have the disease and it can flare up at any time.
However, with today's knowledge and treatments, most people who have asthma are able to manage the disease. They have few, if any, symptoms. They can live normal, active lives and sleep through the night without interruption from asthma.
If you have asthma, you can take an active role in managing the disease. For successful, thorough, and ongoing treatment, build strong partnerships with your doctor and other health care providers.
Asthma symptoms vary from person to person. You may have infrequent asthma attacks, have symptoms only at certain times — such as when exercising — or have symptoms all the time.
Asthma signs and symptoms include:
Signs that your asthma is probably worsening include:
Asthma signs and symptoms that are more frequent and bothersome
Increasing difficulty breathing (measurable with a peak flow meter, a device used to check how well your lungs are working)
The need to use a quick-relief inhaler more often
For some people, asthma signs and symptoms flare up in certain situations:
The exact cause of asthma isn't known. Researchers think some genetic and environmental factors interact to cause asthma, most often early in life. These factors include:
Some factors may be more likely to cause asthma in some people than in others. Researchers continue to explore what causes asthma.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Although many people with asthma rely on medications to prevent and relieve symptoms, you can do several things on your own to maintain your health and lessen the possibility of asthma attacks.
Avoid your triggers
Taking steps to reduce your exposure asthma triggers is a key part of asthma control, including:
Taking care of yourself can help keep your symptoms under control, including:
Get regular exercise. Having asthma doesn't mean you have to be less active. Treatment can prevent asthma attacks and control symptoms during activity.
Regular exercise can strengthen your heart and lungs, which helps relieve asthma symptoms. If you exercise in cold temperatures, wear a face mask to warm the air you breathe.
Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can worsen asthma symptoms, and it puts you at higher risk of other health problems.
Control heartburn and gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD). It's possible that the acid reflux that causes heartburn may damage lung airways and worsen asthma symptoms. If you have frequent or constant heartburn, talk to your doctor about treatment options. You may need treatment for GERD before your asthma symptoms improve.