Asthma is a chronic disease of the lungs that narrows and inflames the airways, making it difficult to breathe. This condition affects individuals of all ages, but most often begins in childhood. Because asthma can have a number of different causes and may be confused with other conditions that affect the airways, the first step to improving your symptoms is receiving an accurate diagnosis.
At Columbia Asthma & Allergy Clinic, we specialize in the treatment of allergy and asthma-related conditions. Contact us today to schedule a consultation appointment at one of our many offices in Washington, Oregon, and California. We look forward to hearing from you!
Patients with allergic asthma have allergic inflammation of their airways, which is most often caused by inhaled allergens. Once the allergic inflammation is present, certain triggers such as respiratory infection, exercise, tobacco smoke, or cold air can cause the airways to overreact, tightening the muscles around the airways, and increasing secretion of mucous in the airways.
Common allergens that can cause the inflammation present in allergic asthma include:
- Wind-blown pollen
- Animal dander
- Animal saliva
- Cockroach feces
- Dust mite feces
- Mold spores and fragments
- Occupational exposures
Non-allergic asthma is characterized by inflammation of the airways caused not by exposure to an allergen, but by other factors such as infection, chemicals, or unknown causes. Symptoms from non-allergic asthma can be precipitated by the same triggers that cause symptoms in allergic asthma. Taking certain medications and avoiding triggers that cause asthma attacks can help decrease the intensity and frequency of episodes.
Exercise Induced Asthma
Although exercise is a common trigger that leads to symptoms in allergic asthma, exercise-induced asthma is a type of non-allergic asthma. This condition is characterized by a narrowing of the airways induced by strenuous exercise and no other known cause. Pre-exercise medications and long-term control drugs may be utilized to help improve the symptoms of exercise induced asthma.
Occupational asthma can be allergic or non-allergic based on the occupational exposure which results in the development of asthma. There is a vast array of substances found in the workplace which can cause inflammation of the airways and trigger asthma symptoms. If you experience asthma symptoms while at your workplace that subside on your days off, there’s a good chance you suffer from occupational asthma.
Individuals in the following occupations are at a particularly high risk of experiencing workplace asthma:
- Grain elevator workers
- Laboratory workers
- Metal workers
- Plastics workers
Typically, avoiding exposure to the substance that is triggering asthma symptoms is the best way for patients to improve their condition. Some patients with occupational asthma develop chronic inflammation and require long term treatment with medications.
Cough-Variant Asthma/Chronic Cough
Patients who suffer from cough-variant asthma experience a dry, non-productive cough. Typically, these individuals do not experience “classic” asthma symptoms like wheezing or shortness of breath. This condition is sometimes referred to as a chronic cough if it has lasted longer than six to eight weeks. Many asthma patients have cough in addition to other asthma symptoms, especially when they develop a respiratory infection.
Vocal Cord Dysfunction
Vocal cord dysfunction is characterized by full or partial closure of the vocal cords. Symptoms of vocal cord dysfunction include trouble breathing, coughing, wheezing, throat tightness, voice changes, and hoarse voice. This condition is sometimes confused with asthma because it shares many of asthma’s symptoms. Individuals who suffer from vocal cord dysfunction may also have asthma, furthering this confusion.
Do you suspect that you may be suffering from asthma or a related condition? Contact Columbia Asthma & Allergy Clinic today to schedule a consultation appointment with a member of our specialized staff. We look forward to hearing from you!