Asthma is the common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction, and bronchospasm. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath.
Asthma is clinically classified according to the frequency of symptoms, forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1), and peak expiratory flow rate. Asthma may also be classified as atopic (extrinsic) or non-atopic (intrinsic). It is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Treatment of acute symptoms is usually with an inhaled short-acting beta-2 agonist (such as salbutamol). Symptoms can be prevented by avoiding triggers, such as allergens and irritants, and by inhaling corticosteroids. Leukotriene antagonists are less effective than corticosteroids and thus less preferred.
A specific, customized plan for proactively monitoring and managing symptoms should be created. Someone who has asthma should understand the importance of reducing exposure to allergens, testing to assess the severity of symptoms and the usage of medications. The treatment plan should be written down and adjusted according to changes in symptoms.
The most effective treatment for asthma is identifying triggers, such as cigarette smoke, pets, or aspirin, and eliminating exposure to them. If trigger avoidance is insufficient, medical treatment is recommended. Medical treatments used depend on the severity of illness and the frequency of symptoms. Specific medications for asthma are broadly classified into fast-acting and long-acting categories.
Bronchodilators are recommended for short-term relief of symptoms. In those with occasional attacks, no other medication is needed. If mild persistent disease is present (more than two attacks a week), low-dose inhaled glucocorticoids or alternatively, an oral leukotriene antagonist or a mast cell stabilizer is recommended. For those who suffer daily attacks, a higher dose of inhaled glucocorticoid is used. In a severe asthma exacerbation, oral glucocorticoids are added to these treatments.