Asthma is a long-term, chronic disease that inflames and narrows the airways of your lungs. Asthma causes a variety of symptoms: shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, or tightness in the chest tightness. These can worsen at any time, making breathing difficult. Unfortunately, there is no cure for asthma. You may still have inflammation in your lungs, even if you have no symptoms, but by working closely with your healthcare provider to manage your asthma, you should be able to help get your symptoms under control.
Airway inflammation and airway constriction are the main
components of asthma. Both of these impact the airways of the lungs, making
it more difficult to breathe. It's important to treat asthma symptoms
as soon as you notice them to help prevent them from getting worse or causing a
severe asthma attack.
For people with asthma, the airways of the lungs can be more sensitive to viruses, allergens and irritants, such as smoke and dust. The immune system overreacts and produces persistent inflammation in the airways. This inflammation causes swelling of the lining of the airways, reducing the amount of air available to your lungs. In some cases, a thick mucus is produced, which can further obstructs the airways.
Your airways may be inflamed even when you aren't having symptoms. When the airways stay inflamed over time, they often become even more sensitive to asthma triggers. Then, each time you are exposed to triggers, both the inflammation and your symptoms may get worse.
Airway constriction, or bronchoconstriction, often accompanies inflammation. You may feel a tightening in your chest as the muscles around your airways constrict, or squeeze together. When this happens to airways already narrowed by inflammation, it may obstruct the airways further and make it even harder for you to breathe.