Severe Asthma

What is Severe Asthma?

Severe asthma is a type of asthma that is more difficult to control. It is a long-term condition caused by inflammation of the airways, which leads to a narrowing of the airways and difficulty breathing. It is often triggered by environmental allergens or irritants in the air. People with severe asthma may experience worsened symptoms despite taking medication and following prescribed treatments.

Common symptoms of severe asthma include:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • Chest tightness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid breathing (tachypnea)
  • Fatigue

These symptoms can be made worse if the person is exposed to smoke, dust, or pollen. Severe asthma is more common in adults than in children, and it is estimated that 10–15 percent of people with asthma in the United States have the severe form of the condition.

Treatment for Severe Asthma

Treatment for severe asthma may include:

  • Long-term control medications, such as corticosteroids or biologics, which help reduce inflammation in the airways
  • Quick-relief medications, such as beta-agonists, which provide short-term relief during an attack
  • Immunotherapy, to help reduce sensitivity to asthma triggers
  • Allergy testing, to help identify triggers
  • Oxygen therapy, to help the body get more oxygen

In some cases, surgery may be recommended to open up the airways and provide better breathing. It is important to talk to a doctor to determine the best treatment plan for a person’s specific condition and needs.

Tips to Manage Severe Asthma

The following tips can help people with severe asthma manage their condition:

  • Avoid triggers. Identify and avoid things that may worsen asthma symptoms, such as smoke, dust, and pollen.
  • Take medications as prescribed. Make sure to take all prescribed medication and do not change doses without speaking to a doctor.
  • Monitor symptoms. Keep track of asthma symptoms, and note when they get worse. This can help identify triggers and determine the need for additional treatment.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise can help reduce symptoms by improving the airflow and strength of the airways.
  • Seek medical help. Get medical help right away if symptoms get worse, and follow the doctor's instructions.