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Asthma / Emphysema

Asthma is a chronic condition affecting the airways of the lungs. Symptoms include wheezing and difficulty breathing, constriction of the airways due to contraction of the muscles that surround the airways, and extreme sensitivity of the airways to triggers such as exercise or pollen.

All patients with asthma should have a short-acting bronchodilator to use to treat an episode of asthma. This type of medication helps to relax the muscles that tighten, causing the narrowing of the airways. The most common example is Ventolin or Proair (albuterol/salbutamol).

Generally, one or two puffs relieve the wheezing and chest tightness associated with a mild attack. It may be necessary to take more than the usual 2 puffs for severe attacks, and some doctors will prescribe a nebulized form of the same medication.

The mainstay of controlling asthma is with a combination of two drugs: a long-acting bronchodilator and an inhaled steroid. Together, these drugs reduce the inflammation that causes asthma.

Though the mild, intermittent asthma sufferer was thought to only need the short-acting bronchodilators, some studies are now suggesting that they also benefit from this combination of drugs taken daily.

Other medications are available and may be appropriate for some people with asthma. These include mast cell stabilizers and leukotriene modifiers, such as Cromolyn/cromoglycate and Singulair/montelukast.