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Asthma is a long-term disease that causes swelling and sensitivity in the airways. When certain substances are inhaled, they can irritate the airways (a)lso called bronchioles and result in tightening of the muscles around the airways. This makes breathing very difficult.

Asthma affects people of all ages, but the disease most often begins in childhood. Symptoms range from mild to severe. Worsening of symptoms is referred to as an asthma attack, exacerbation, or flare-up.

The cause of asthma is not known, but researchers believe genetic and environmental factors may be at the root of this disease. Risk factors for asthma include the following:

  • An inherited tendency to develop allergies
  • Parents with asthma
  • Certain respiratory infections during childhood
  • Exposure to certain allergens or viral infections early in life when the immune system is still developing.

Although there is currently no cure for asthma, most people are able to live a normal, active life with proper care.


If you have asthma, you may experience some or all of these symptoms:

  • Coughing that may be worse at night or early in the morning
  • Wheezing—a whistling or squeaky sound when you breathe
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath.

Asthma symptoms can be triggered by allergens, such as dust, pollen and mold; irritants such as cigarette smoke and pollution; certain medicines; sulfites in food and drinks; colds and other viral upper respiratory infections; and exercise and other physical activity.


Physicians use a variety of examinations and tests to diagnose asthma:

  • A complete medical history, including family history of asthma and allergies
  • A physical exam to look for symptoms of asthma or allergies
  • A lung function test to see how well your lungs are working
  • Allergy testing
  • Bronchoprovocation testing to measure how sensitive your airways are
  • A chest x-ray or an electrocardiogram (EKG) to see if a foreign object or another disease might be causing your symptoms
  • Testing to rule out other conditions that have symptoms similar to those of asthma, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease or sleep apnea.


Norton Thoracic Institute provides treatment for severe cases of asthma. In our Advanced Lung Disease Clinic, you will receive care from a multidisciplinary team of specialists who focus on helping you:

  • Reduce your symptoms
  • Maintain the best lung function possible
  • Stay active and sleep well
  • Prevent trips to the emergency room brought about by asthma.

Asthma is typically treated with medications—some provide long-term control of symptoms, whereas others relieve asthma flare-ups. Your treatment plan may include inhaled corticosteroids, oral medications, injected medications, and medications delivered via nebulizers.


You can reduce the impact of asthma on your life by following these guidelines:

  • See your doctor regularly to manage your asthma and to address other health issues that contribute to your condition.
  • Avoid known asthma triggers.
  • Talk to your physician about staying as active as possible.
  • Work with the Norton Thoracic Institute team in creating and following a personal asthma action plan—a plan that outlines following a proper medication schedule, avoiding triggers, tracking your condition, and knowing when to seek emergency care.

By being an active member of your healthcare team, you will achieve greater success in managing your asthma.

Learn More About Asthma Services at Norton Thoracic Institute

To learn more about asthma services at Norton Thoracic Institute, call (602) 406-4000.