What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that is characterised by variable and recurring symptoms like difficulty in breathing, wheeze, cough, chest tightness and shortness of breath. Asthmatics have hypersensitive airways that tighten or constrict when exposed to certain triggers and this tightening inhibits the ability to allow air passage in and out of the lungs. When this happens, two responses take place in the lungs:

  • Inflammation, which causes the airways to become red, swollen, and irritated.
  • Bronchoconstriction, which refers to spasms in the muscles that surround the airways.

These responses are referred to as an “Asthma attack”

An asthmatic has good days and bad days. The interval between two attacks also varies with what triggers the attack.

In most cases, the asthmatic usually responds to inhaled or oral medication. Appropriate treatment can also reduce the risk of further attacks.

If you experience a serious asthmatic attack you should seek emergency help” 

At what age does asthma start?

Asthma can start at any age. About half of all asthmatics have had their first attack by the age of 10.

What is the cause of Asthma?

Asthma can be caused by a host of factors. It may be genetic or environmental. Allergy clearly plays an important role in many asthma cases but not in all. As with allergy, you can blame your family history; there's certainly a strong genetic component for asthma

Allergy to pollen, house dust mites or pets also increases your chance of developing asthma. Exposure to tobacco smoke, air pollution or other inhaled irritants can also cause asthma symptoms in those with an underlying tendency to asthma. 

What can trigger an attack of asthma?

Different triggers can start an asthma attack and people differ a lot in how easily and how severely they react. Some triggers (also called inciters) only cause tightening of the airways (bronchoconstriction) that lasts for just a short time. These triggers include:

  • Tobacco smoke
  • Infections such as cold, flu or pneumonia
  • Allergens such as food, pollen, dust mites and pet dander
  • Exercise
  • Air pollution and toxins
  • Weather, especially extreme changes in temperature
  • Drugs (such as aspirin, NSAID and beta-blockers)
  • Food additives (such as MSG - Mono Sodium Glutamate a food additive)
  • Emotional stress and anxiety
  • Singing, laughing or crying
  • Perfumes or sprays
  • Acid reflux

How to diagnose asthma?

  • Typical symptoms such as cough worsening at night, recurrent wheezing, recurrent chest tightness with seasonal changes
  • Family history of asthma
  • Worsening of symptoms in the presence of triggers
  • Symptoms responding to anti-asthma drugs
  • Lung function tests

What is the treatment for asthma?

Non-medical measures

  • Firstly, try to discover what triggers your asthma. Avoid those triggers
  • It is important that your home is well ventilated and kept clean, particularly the floors. Carpets can have house mites, so if one is an asthmatic, it is better not to have carpets
  • In general, do not keep furry animals or birds, even if you are not specifically allergic to them, as they will lead to an increase in the amount of house dust.
  • Try to avoid strong perfumes, aftershave, deodorants and fragrant flowers inside the house, as these are all possible triggers of asthma.
  • Do not allow anyone to smoke indoors and avoid other smoky environments such as bars
  • Yoga and other breathing exercises are very helpful

Medical treatment

  • Controllers are medicines that prevent asthma attacks from starting. 
  • Relievers or airway openers are medicines that provide rapid relief from an asthma attack by quickly opening up the narrowed airways 
  • Combination medications contain a reliever and a controller in the same inhaler. So this type of inhaler opens up the airways (preventing the feeling of chest tightening and the worsening of an attack) and also reduces the underlying inflammation that causes asthma. As a result, combination inhalers provide better control of asthma symptoms and reduce the number of inhalers you have to use.
  • Recently, a combination inhaler has become available that lets you safely adjust the dosage of your combined medication to match the changes in your asthma symptoms. This makes it possible for you to take the right level of medication at the right time and means that you use less medication overall
  • The correct use of inhalers is important. Your doctor will be able to teach you how to use the inhaler correctly.
  • An asthmatic should always carry the rescue inhaler in case of an asthma attack or asthma emergency.
  • While there is no asthma cure yet, there are excellent asthma medications that can help with preventing asthma symptoms and asthma support that can help you live a normal, active life.

Tags: Asthma , lung diseases , Respiratory diseases , Breathing , Breathless


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