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What are the Different Asthma Effects?

By Emma Lloyd
Updated May 17, 2024
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Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease which affects the respiratory tract and lungs. The underlying cause of asthma is not well understood; what is known is that the airways of people with asthma are unusually sensitive to irritants such as tobacco smoke, fumes from cleaning products, environmental pollution, mold, dust, and animal hair or dander. For some people, stress, exercise, and certain types of medication may trigger an asthma attack. Chronic asthma effects include wheezing, coughing, and breathing problems. These asthma symptoms become worse when an acute attack occurs.

During an acute asthma attack, exposure to a trigger causes severe inflammation of the airways. This inflammation occurs because the immune system has mounted a defense to the trigger. As the inflammation continues, the airways swell, making breathing more difficult. The person having the attack may also experience asthma effects such as coughing and wheezing, chest pain, a feeling of tightness in the chest, and difficulty speaking. When the attack is over, he or she typically feels fatigued.

Long-term asthma effects are related to the physical stress put on the lungs as a result of chronic airway inflammation and irritation. One effect is simply that the lungs become weaker due to tissue damage caused by chronic inflammation. In addition, people with asthma are at higher risk of respiratory diseases and infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis. They are also more likely to suffer from complications of common respiratory infections. For example, someone with asthma is at increased risk of developing pneumonia if they catch a cold.

Asthma is not curable, but the frequency and severity of acute asthma attacks can be reduced, and chronic symptoms can be controlled. The two most effective ways to manage asthma are with medication, and by avoiding asthma triggers. Various types of medication can help control chronic asthma effects, and reduce the frequency of acute asthma attacks.

Medications that are taken after an asthma attack has begun are called rescue medications. These are taken to try and reduce the severity of the attack, and shorten its duration. People with asthma can also try to reduce the number of asthma attacks they have by avoiding asthma triggers whenever possible.

It is possible to reduce the frequency of acute attacks, but chronic symptoms remain. For this reason many people with asthma must continue to use medication to manage chronic asthma effects. These are called controller medications, and work to reduce chronic inflammation. Controller medications help manage chronic symptoms such as coughing and wheezing, in addition to helping prevent acute attacks.

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