Asthma

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Asthma is a disease involving a type of breathlessness. In the late 1980's, about ten million people in the U.S. suffered from asthma. Asthma related deaths in the U.S. increased forty percent between 1982 and 1995 for unknown reasons. Asthma attacks are caused by a partial blocking of the small bronchial tubes in the lungs. This blocking results from a contraction of the bronchial muscles, swelling of the mucous membranes that line these muscles, and the production of phlegm, a thick mucus. The most common kind of asthma, allergic bronchial asthma, is caused by a specific allergic reaction. Most of the time, the allergy is caused by ordinary substances, such as dust, pollens, certain foods, fur, chemical irritants, mold, air pollution, and tobacco smoke. Also, many asthmatics are allergic to aspirin. Asthma is also sometimes associated with hay fever, which is also a allergy. Attacks of asthma often follow periods of emotional strain or heavy exertion. A infection of the nose and throat can accelerate the start of an attack. Also, a sudden change in the weather may bring on a asthma attack. Asthma may occur seasonally if the air contains specific pollens, but most asthmatics have attacks periodically throughout the year. The symptoms of asthma are that the patient complains frequently of a feeling of tightness in the chest. The patient also has a hacking cough and shortness of breath. Phlegm, a thick mucus, develops in the lungs, and the cough get more intense. The patient may feel better temporarily after coughing up the phlegm. The length of time of asthma is throughout the patient's lifetime because asthma is a chronic disease, but asthma can be treated and controlled. Asthma affects a asthmatic person in sudden, sharp attacks that occur periodically. A doctor diagnoses asthma by obtaining a full allergy history of the patient, a physical examination of the patient, and by executing allergy skin tests on the patient. Doctors can prescribe the drugs aminophylline, cromolyn, and ephedrine to relieve the symptoms of asthma. Epinephrine or beta-2 agonists are sometimes used to control asthma attacks. Steroid therapy is often necessary for patients who have severe cases of asthma. A doctor may also hyposensitize the patient to the numerous substances that induce asthma. The treatment consists of small injections at regular intervals of a preparation made from the substances the patient is allergic to. The doctor slowly increases the strength of the injections until the patient's body has built up a resistance to the allergy producing substances. There is no recovery from asthma because there are no cures f

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