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Chest: Lungs and Breathing
- Asthma, Exercise Asthma, Recurrent Bronchitis, Vocal Cord Dysfunction, Chronic Cough, Reactive Airways
What is asthma?
Asthma is a potentially life-threatening, chronic lung disease. People with asthma have airways that become overly-sensitive, inflamed, and swollen, usually in response to some trigger. In asthma, airway muscles tighten, causing reduced airflow and difficulty breathing. This condition is also worsened by increased production of mucous.
How do I get asthma?
Asthma has both genetic and environmental components. Many patients with asthma are born with traits for overly-sensitive airways that can triggered by different events. (A list of potential asthma triggers is shown below). Because of the range of triggers and genetic contributions to asthma, people with asthma can have symptoms ranging from mild to severe, and timing of asthma episodes ranging from trigger-induced to persistent.
Shortness of Breath
Tightness of Chest
Allergens and Pollution
While there are several types of testing that can be used to help diagnose asthma, the two most common tests used by the Allergy Clinic of Tulsa are the Pulmonary Function Test and Methacholine Challenge.
Pulmonary Function Test – This type of test evaluates the function of the lungs, by measuring how much air your lungs can hold, how quickly you can move air in and out of your lungs, and how well your lungs can exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. A pulmonary function test can help diagnose lung diseases and measure the severity of lung problems.
Methacholine Challenge — In this test, the patient inhales a substance called methacholine in order to trigger an airway response. One indication for asthma is that the airways are highly responsive to methacholine, so this test is usually done when a patient is suspected to have asthma.
Mannitol Challenge- In a manner similar to the methacholine challenge, the patient will inhale a substance called mannitol in order to trigger an airway response. If the airways are highly responsive to mannitol, then asthma may be suspected.
Chest X-ray – Used with other tests, an x-ray of the chest can help the physician come to an accurate diagnosis.
Our physicians can diagnose asthma after obtaining a complete medical history from the patient and following it up with the appropriate testing
Asthma Action Plan
Depending on the nature and severity of the asthma, our physicians will help develop an action plan for helping control the patient’s asthma. This plan will include when to add medications and increase doses of medications depending on the severity of the asthma symptoms.
This will usually consist of:
- Regularly monitoring patient’s airflow with a small device called a peakflow meter
- A fast acting inhaler to quickly open airways (called a short-acting beta agonist)
- A slow acting medication to open airways long-term (called a bronchodilator)
- An oral steroid to decrease airway inflammation when necessary
Remember, the physician will develop an individualized action plan based on the patient’s symptoms.
Environmental control (if allergy-driven)
If the physician discovers the patient’s asthma is triggered by a specific allergy, the physician may advise home modifications (such as changes to flooring and bedding).