Asthma: Causes & Treatment | Gwinnett Lung

Lung Condition: Asthma Causes & Treatment

The Causes And Treatment Of Asthma

Asthma is a medical condition where your airways narrow, swell, or produce extra mucus which causes difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, and wheezing and coughing. Asthma ranges from mild to severe, with some people regarding it as a minor inconvenience while for others, it can be life threatening.

Types Of Asthma

Asthma has a variety of causes, and depending on the cause, you may be experiencing a certain type of asthma.

Exercise-induced asthma is due to physical activity, and may be worsened when the air is cold and dry.

Occupational asthma is caused by workplace irritants such as chemical fumes, gasses or dust.

Allergy-induced asthma is triggered by airborne irritants such as pollen, mold, and dander.

Risk Factors For Asthma

Certain factors provide increased risk of developing asthma. These factors include a family history of asthma, being overweight, smoking tobacco, or having another allergic condition, such as atopic dermatitis or hay fever. Other risk factors include exposure to pollutants such as secondhand smoke, exhaust fumes, and chemicals. If you have any of these risk factors, there is a higher rate of developing asthma

Causes Of Asthma

Asthma is typically caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Exposure to allergens and irritants can trigger signs and symptoms of asthma. Triggers for asthma can vary for each individual with this lung condition, but common asthma triggers include physical activity, cold air, air pollutants and irritants, respiratory infections, stress, acid reflux, and food preservatives. 

Other triggers include airborne allergens, such as pollen, dust mites, mold spores, pet dander or particles of cockroach waste, and certain medications, including beta blocker, aspirin, and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Complications Of Asthma

Since asthma affects your breathing ability, it can lead to a variety of complications. Complications from asthma can be disruption of sleep or work, a permanent narrowing of your bronchial tubes which can cause chronic breathing problems, and side effects of long-term use of asthma medications.

Symptoms Of Asthma

Asthma can present itself differently in each individual, although there are many asthma symptoms that commonly occur. Asthma symptoms include feeling short of breath, chest pain or tightness, wheezing upon exhaling, trouble sleeping, and coughing or wheezing attacks that worsen with a cold or the flu.

Signs that your asthma is worsening include increased frequency of symptoms, greater difficulty breathing, and asthma attacks. If you experience these symptoms or have to use your inhaler more often, tell your doctor you believe your asthma is getting worse.

What Is An Asthma Attack?

An asthma attack is a severe symptom of asthma where your airways get tighter and you begin to have extreme difficulty breathing. During an asthma attack, three things may happen.

You can experience a bronchospasm, which is where the muscles around your airways constrict, narrowing your airways and making it difficult to breathe, as air cannot flow freely through constricted airways.

You can also experience inflammation, where the lining of your airways become swollen, which causes breathing problems due to swollen airways causing less air to reach your lungs.

You may have increased mucus production, where your body creates more mucus during the attack which clogs airways.

Asthma attacks can often be life threatening, as they disrupt lung function and create issues when trying to receive enough air.

Testing For Asthma

Doctors diagnose asthma by asking about your medical and family history while also discussing your symptoms. Your doctor will need to know about any history of allergies as well as other lung diseases. Your doctor may order a variety of tests, such as a chest X-ray, skin test, blood test, or spirometry. Spirometry is a test that measures airflow through your lungs and is used to diagnose lung conditions, along with monitoring your progress through treatment.

Your doctor may also give you a test using a peak flow meter, which is a device that measures how hard you can breathe out. If you have lower than normal breathing ability, it is a sign your lungs don’t work as well as they should and you may have asthma. You may also be given other tests, including imaging and allergy tests, nitric oxide tests, methacholine challenge, or sputum eosinophils.

Treatment For Asthma

Although there is no cure for asthma, there are treatment options that can help manage your symptoms. You may be prescribed medicine such as bronchodilators, which relax the muscles around your airways to allow more air to move through them. This medicine also allows mucus to move more easily through the airways which helps them become less clogged so you can breathe better. Bronchodilators are used for quick relief when you experience symptoms, and can be prescribed for both intermittent and chronic asthma.

Anti-inflammatory medicines reduce swelling and mucus production in your airways which makes it easier for air to travel in and out of your lungs. These medicines are taken every day to prevent symptoms of chronic asthma. If your asthma is severe, you may be given biologic therapies for asthma, which is used when symptoms persist even after inhaler use.

Asthma medicines can be prescribed to you in several different forms, with the most common method being an inhaler. Other forms of medication include nebulizers and oral medications. Your doctor may also help you devise an asthma action plan that tells you when and how to use your medications in order to prevent severe asthma symptoms.

How GPS Can Help

At Gwinnett Pulmonary and Sleep, we offer services to help determine if you are dealing with lung conditions such as asthma, and treatment to help if you are. These services include pulmonary function tests, such as spirometry, lung volume, and diffusion capacity; as well as pulmonary rehabilitation.

If you suspect that you may have asthma, it’s important to get tested as soon as possible. Learn more about our services here, or schedule an appointment to talk to our doctors.


Am I Having an Asthma Attack?

Chances are if you’re reading this, you either have asthma, are newly diagnosed, or have a loved one with asthma. And chances are also high that at some point, you’ve asked yourself, “Am I having an asthma attack?” So many of us worry about our symptoms and whether they warrant a trip to the ER. Some people may always react, even when it’s a false alarm, while others might wait too long and need medical assistance. Taking control of your health and staying safe during asthmatic episodes is wise – knowledge is critical!

Let’s break down what constitutes an asthma attack, so you’ll know when it’s time to take action.

Causes of an asthma attack

Asthma is a chronic lung condition that people have throughout their life. While individuals can treat their asthma, making changes can also alleviate symptoms; for example, moving away from or avoiding triggering areas. Asthma attacks can come on due to a variety of reasons. According to the CDC, some of the top causes of experiencing an asthma attack include:

  • Tobacco
  • Dust mites
  • Dust
  • Pests
  • Pollution
  • Chemicals
  • Sprays
  • Fragrances
  • Pets
  • Mold
  • Grass
  • Weeds
  • Pollen
  • Weather
  • Exercise
  • Cold/Flu
  • Stress/Panic

It’s beneficial to know your triggers so that you can avoid them the best you can. Obviously, you won’t know what all of your triggers are until you encounter them. But if you get wheezy around chemicals, you probably have asthma symptoms around other airborne things like fragrances, sprays, and heavy pollution. Once you encounter a trigger, understanding the symptoms you may experience can help save your life.

Symptoms of an asthma attack

Asthma is an inflammation and obstruction of the bronchial tubes – the passages that allow air to enter and leave the lungs. During an asthma attack, the muscles that surround the bronchial tubes constrict, narrowing the air passages and making it extremely difficult to breathe.

Everyone is different, but there are a few universal tell-tale signs of an asthma attack.

The first sign you may experience at the onset of an asthma attack is a wheezing or rattling sound in your chest, which may cause a persistent cough. Additionally, a tight chest, where you feel like you can’t take a deep enough breath, occurs early on.

Next, your breath will quicken as getting enough oxygen becomes more complex and panic starts to set in. It will eventually become difficult to talk, and you might turn pale and have blue lips and fingernails.

In an interview, a few people described what it feels like to have an asthma attack.

  • “It can feel like I’m breathing through a squished straw.”
  • “It feels like someone is squeezing the air out of me.”
  • “It starts with a cough that seems to be centered in my throat because there is no air getting into my lungs.”

Diagnosing your asthma is important because these symptoms can also mean other things, such as having an allergy, sleep apnea, or a COPD attack. Taking your health seriously and understanding your body is the best thing you can do.


Though it may seem like a pain to keep tabs on what sets off your asthma, ultimately, it’s for your own good. Not knowing and constantly being surprised by attacks can mess with your quality of life and, in severe cases, be lethal. Be smart and get ahead by learning all you can about your triggers and symptoms – your future self will thank you. If you’re struggling to handle your asthma or suspect something more serious is happening, don’t hesitate to contact us here at Gwinnett Pulmonary & Sleep. We’d be happy to help get you on the road to better breathing!

Is Asthma Genetic?

Asthma is a prevalent, inflammatory lung condition that affects around 25 million people in the United States. Many people with asthma are lucky because their condition is mild and flares only occasionally due to specific triggers. Some people wonder if genetics is the cause of their suffering and if their parents are to blame. Asthma is a complicated condition, and genes aren’t the entire problem.

Let’s take a closer look at the evidence and determine how much genetics contributes to asthma.

Is there a gene connected to asthma?

In both research on chromosomes and a look at twin and familial studies, there is likely a gene for asthma, although it has yet to be identified.

Researchers at the National Center for Biotechnology Information know that multiple genes “contribute toward a person’s susceptibility to a disease, and in the case of asthma, chromosomes 5, 6, 11, 14, and 12 have all been implicated. They also say, “The relative roles of these genes in asthma predisposition are unclear, but one of the most promising sites for investigation is on chromosome 5. Although a gene for asthma from this site has not yet been specifically identified, it is known that this region is rich in genes coding for key molecules in the inflammatory response seen in asthma….”

Simply put, there is no single gene for asthma, but the chronic lung condition is most likely caused by multiple genes interacting with each other.

There are family and twin studies that show a greater risk of asthma if you have two parents with the lung condition versus just one. However, this doesn’t mean that you will absolutely develop asthma.

According to asthma experts, “Among identical twins with asthma, it is said that asthma may be 52 to 75% inherited/genetically-linked, leaving a significant margin of room for the impacts of the environment on asthma development. A 2014 study suggests that, of families where one identical twin has asthma, only 50% of their “co-twins” also have asthma.”

These examples show a predisposition to asthma due to genetic factors, but that asthma is not 100% hereditary. There are even people who have asthma who have no genetic predisposition to it at all.

Asthma and environment

Genetic factors aren’t the only things playing a role in someone’s asthmatic symptoms. The environment and lifestyle also contribute. Researchers have found that genes, combined with the environment, cause asthma. This is proven when looking at adopted and separated twin studies.

Common environmental factors that may start the onset of asthma or worsen symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Living in an area with heavy air pollution
  • Being around cigarette smoke often
  • Having regular contact with ozone, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide
  • Living in a cold or high-humidity climate
  • Being around indoor pollutants
  • Living in a home with mold
  • Being around allergens daily, such as dander, chemicals, insect parts, etc.

Some people with a genetic predisposition to asthma experience one or more of these environmental factors, which may trigger the condition’s onset. Ultimately, there is no way for doctors to say at birth who will get asthma and who won’t.


Asthma is not always entirely genetic, and there is no one specific gene for asthma. The condition has genetic factors that make certain people predisposed to developing it, although environmental factors also come into play. If you have asthma, there are ways you can manage your symptoms and live a normal life. Contact Gwinnett Pulmonary & Sleep if you need treatment for your asthma symptoms. We can provide you with the care and support you need to get your asthma under control.

How is Asthma Diagnosed?

If you believe you may have asthma, it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis from a healthcare provider. Depending on your symptoms and severity, there are a few different ways to do this. According to the CDC, current data shows that over 25 million people from all age groups have asthma, and at least 10 million have had an asthma attack in the last year. The prevalence of asthma is high, so trained healthcare professionals must be available to diagnose the chronic lung condition appropriately.

Continue reading to learn general methods of diagnosis and what you can expect if you’re diagnosed with asthma.

Asthma diagnosis process

A call to the doctor is warranted when asthma symptoms arise and persist, such as shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, and coughing and wheezing, especially around specific triggers. If this sounds like you, don’t try to self-diagnose or brush your symptoms off because making assumptions can prevent you from receiving the treatment you may need.

These are the general steps you may take when seeking an asthma diagnosis.

  • Go over your medical history with your doctor.

An asthma medical history includes going over your family history, history of allergies, symptoms, medications, lifestyle, occupation, and more. This is an essential step to help the doctor better understand what your life is like and identify any triggers that may contribute to your asthma symptoms.

  • Get a physical exam to look for signs.

This step is even more important than the first. The doctor will want you to go into more detail about your symptoms. They will also examine your throat, chest, upper airways, and skin.

  • Participate in tests to gain more information.

There are a few types of tests that can help doctors diagnose asthma.

Spirometry is a test “to help determine how well your lungs are working (pulmonary function); you take a deep breath and forcefully breathe out (exhale) into a tube connected to a spirometer. This records the amount (volume) of air you exhale and how quickly you exhale. If certain measurements are below normal for a person your age, it may indicate that asthma has narrowed your airways.”

Doctors give “the challenge test” if the spirometry comes back normal and the patient commonly has asthma symptoms during or after physical activity. Patients will walk on a treadmill or do some sort of activity to get the heart rate up, then retake the spirometry test.

Another common asthma diagnostic test is the exhaled nitric oxide test. Experts at the American Lung Association say, “an exhaled nitric oxide level test can help diagnose and manage asthma. Increased levels of nitric oxide are associated with swelling of lung airways.

Remember that everyone’s asthma diagnostic experience may differ, so don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor about any specific questions or concerns you have.


Don’t wait to get diagnosed with asthma by a pulmonologist if you think you have it. It could be a matter of life or death. If you’re in the Gwinnett area, contact Gwinnett Pulmonary & Sleep to get properly tested and diagnosed. They’ll be able to help you out and get you on the right track for managing your asthma.


Can You Develop Asthma After COVID

After dealing with the stressors of getting sick and bouncing back from coronavirus, nobody wants to be confronted with another problem. But if you’ve had COVID and now find yourself struggling with respiratory issues more than before, it’s worth asking: could this be a sign that you’re developing asthma? As strange as it may sound, it is indeed possible for people to develop asthma after having suffered from COVID-19. In fact, studies have shown that almost half of those who have had COVID can experience longer-lasting or even new symptoms like wheezing or coughing afterward.

So whether you’ve never been diagnosed with asthma before or have only begun experiencing odd symptoms since your recovery from the virus, read on to learn more about how COVID affects breathing long-term.

Long-COVID symptoms

The CDC defines long-COVID as having symptoms that last three or more months. The caveat here is that symptoms someone had before catching COVID do not count. Long-COVID symptoms affect about 1 in every 13 people who catch the coronavirus. To put that into perspective, in the United States, almost 100 million people have contracted the virus, so 7.5% of those are suffering from long-COVID symptoms.

Many of these people report constant fatigue, an on-and-off fever, joint or muscle pain, loss of taste or smell, digestive issues, neurological symptoms, and respiratory issues. Unfortunately, some can even develop new chronic health conditions.

Possible respiratory effects include a chronic cough, wheezing or difficulty breathing, chest pain, and the development of asthma.

Experts at the CDC also have research to back up who is more likely to suffer from long-COVID. These groups of people entail:

  • People who have experienced more severe COVID-19 illness, especially those hospitalized or needing intensive care.
  • People who had underlying health conditions before COVID-19.
  • People who did not get a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • People who experience multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS) during or after COVID-19 illness.

Thousands of people in those at-risk groups and the general population either developed asthma after COVID or their prior asthma symptoms worsened. Really, anyone is susceptible to developing or worsening asthma symptoms after the virus has cleared.

One way COVID can cause asthma

The coronavirus can significantly damage the lungs due to possible inflammation and scarring. These instances can cause pulmonary dysfunction due to the long-COVID symptoms. Some people’s symptoms may only last a few months, while unfortunately, others might never regain the lung function they had before catching the virus.

One primary reason the respiratory system can become damaged is due to increased clotting throughout the body. Dr. Jean Marie Connors at Brigham states, “These blood clots can appear in the small vessels inside the lungs and heart as well as in the bigger pulmonary arteries and large veins in the legs. The clots can lead to scarring in the lungs, which can impair blood flow and reduce the capacity of the lungs.”

For those who already had asthma before getting COVID and have aggravated symptoms afterward, it is highly recommended to continue using your asthma inhaler or any medications you were already on. It is also best to seek treatment to determine if you need a new treatment plan. And for individuals who never had asthma until COVID, definitely contact a lung specialist.


If you have asthma or think you might have asthma and experience new or worsening symptoms after being infected with COVID-19, it’s important to seek treatment. Our Gwinnett Pulmonary and Sleep team can help get your breathing back on track. We offer a variety of services and treatments that are tailored to each patient. Contact us today to set up an appointment.

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