Asthma is a chronic disease that impedes the flow of air into and out of the lungs. Asthma is characterized by chronic inflammation of the airway and asthma symptoms such as wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath can be brought about after exercise or in response to triggers like allergens or stress. While there is no cure for asthma, some people experience asthma symptoms as a child that resolve in adulthood. For those that experience asthma symptoms, learning your personal triggers (tobacco smoke, pollen or other environmental allergens, pet fur, anxiety) for attacks is important for managing the disease. Medications both oral and inhaled can be life-changing for those who suffer with asthma. Rescue inhalers will remedy shortness of breath at the time of an attack and corticosteroid inhalers can help decrease inflammation to manage the disease over the long-term. Antihistamines help decrease the effect of allergens on the airway while leukotriene blockers function to limit airway constriction.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a long-term disease that is primarily caused by smoking. COPD consists of two main conditions: chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Sufferers of chronic bronchitis experience a thickening of the lining of the airway which leads to excessive mucus production and makes breathing difficult. Emphysema impacts the air sacs in the lungs where oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide resulting in lower blood oxygen levels. Currently there is no cure for COPD but managing the condition is possible with medication. Inhaled corticosteroids decrease inflammation in the airway and bronchodilators help to maintain an open airway. Antibiotics and oral steroids are often required to treat flare-ups or exacerbations of COPD.