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Asthma is a chronic (long-lasting) inflammatory disease of the airways. In those susceptible to asthma, this inflammation causes the airways to spasm and swell periodically so that the airways narrow. The individual then must wheeze or gasp for air. Obstruction to air flow either resolves spontaneously or responds to a wide range of treatments, but continuing inflammation makes the airways hyper-responsive to stimuli such as cold air, exercise, dust mites, pollutants in the air, and even stress and anxiety.

The goals of asthma treatment are to prevent troublesome symptoms, maintain lung function as close to normal as possible, and allow individuals to pursue their normal activities including those requiring exertion. Individuals should periodically be examined and have their lung function measured by spirometry to make sure that treatment goals are being met. The best drug therapy is that which controls asthmatic symptoms while causing few or no side effects.


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