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What is Asthma?

Erlanger Pulmonology and Critical Care
979 East 3rd St.
Suite C-735
Chattanooga, TN 37403

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects your airways. Your airways are tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. If you have asthma, the inside walls of your airways become sore and swollen. That makes them very sensitive, and they may react strongly to things that you are allergic to or find irritating. The good news is that asthma is highly controllable. Today’s controller medicines allow patients to manage symptoms and do the things they enjoy.

What are the Symptoms of Asthma?

  • A dry, hacking cough that’s worse at night, or keeps you awake
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • A chronic cough that typically keeps you up at night
  • A wheezing or whistling sound when breathing (especially in children)

What Causes Asthma?

Current medical research indicates that asthma results from the body’s hyper-reactivity to an external stimulus, or trigger, such as a viral infection, exercise, and/or allergies. Symptoms occur as the body tries to get rid of that trigger. While there is no identifiable asthma gene, the condition does have a genetic component and tends to run in families. 

How is Asthma Diagnosed?

If asthmatic symptoms are suspected, it’s important to get checked it out by a specialist. Your evaluation at Erlanger will begin with some questions to help us pinpoint symptoms.

  • Is the cough occurring at night?
  • Is it dry and hacking?
  • Is it keeping you up at night?
  • What are the triggers?

To help evaluate your condition, you may be asked to take a pulmonary function test (PFT) in our lab. This test is easy and painless. It’s one of the most common diagnostic tests to measure how well you can move air in and out of your lungs.  Learn more about the pulmonary function test.

How is Asthma Treated?

If asthma is diagnosed, there are typically two treatment pathways depending on whether your symptoms are intermittent or frequent. Both pathways utilize and inhaler that delivers albuterol, a bronchodilator that relaxes muscles in the airways and increases air flow to the lungs.

Intermittent Symptoms

  • Symptoms are not frequent and not keeping you up more than one night a week. You may wheeze occasionally when exposed to a trigger.
  • Treatment may include a rescue inhaler (Albuterol) may be recomended. If exercise is trigger, you may use inhaler before activity.

Persistent Symptoms

  • Symptoms are frequent and and waking you up more than one night a week. You use a rescue inhaler more than once a week.not keeping you up more than one night a week. 
  • Treatment may include a Controller Medicine (Advair, Symbicort, Breo, or Dulera) taken every day, morning and night to prevent or improve asthma symptoms.

Where Can I Learn More?

What Asthma Resources Does Erlanger Offer?