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Asthma is an inflammatory condition of the airways (bronchi), associated with a tendency for smooth muscle surrounding the bronchi to tighten. In asthma, trouble breathing and wheezing usually occurs when you breathe out. The inflammation makes the bronchi more sensitive to triggers that worsen the symptoms, which include cough, mucus production, and shortness of breath.

Symptoms

The symptoms of asthma are diverse and often vary. They are made worse by respiratory tract infections and inhaled allergens such as pollen and animal dander, physical exercise, cold air, tobacco smoke, dust, smells, chemicals, foods, and stress. Being overweight also increases the risk of developing asthma. Some medicines and herbal remedies may also cause symptoms.

Typical symptoms of asthma include cough, mucus production, shortness of breath, and wheezing. The symptoms commonly vary, being different at different times of the day. Persons with asthma often wake up at night and also have symptoms in the morning. Symptoms of early asthma often come and go, with lengthy symptom-free periods between symptomatic episodes.

In persons with allergies, asthma symptoms may be triggered by pollen, animal dander and other contaminants in the air. Exercise and sub-zero temperatures also cause symptoms in the majority of persons with asthma. Respiratory tract infections are nevertheless the main reason for worsening of symptoms.

When should I seek treatment?

You should contact a health care professional if you have symptoms for more than eight weeks.

Treatment

Your situation should be carefully assessed and the diagnosis must be confirmed. This ensures that changes in your asthma situation can be compared with your situation at the start of treatment. It is also necessary to apply for special reimbursement for medication (medical statement B).

Asthma requires regular, long-term treatment to prevent symptoms recurring and to maintain a good quality of life. You should not stop your asthma medication independently even if your symptoms disappear. The aims of treatment are to relieve symptoms, achieve normal lung function and prevent exacerbations (flare-ups). Easing of symptoms usually just means that your asthma medication is working.

If you have been diagnosed with asthma before you start your studies and you need a check-up, please use our appointment booking system.

Information sources:

The Finnish Medical Society Duodecim: Terveysportti, Lääkärin tietokanta database

FSHS General Practitioner / 2 September 2019

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