WHAT IS ASTHMA?
Asthma is an inflammatory illness affecting the lungs’ airways. It makes breathing difficult and can make certain physical activities difficult, if not impossible.
To understand asthma, you must first understand what happens when you breathe. Normally, air passes through your nose or mouth, down your throat, and into your airways, eventually reaching your lungs.
In your lungs, there are several little air channels that help transfer oxygen from the air into your bloodstream. When the lining of your airways expands and the muscles around them constrict, you have asthma symptoms. The mucus then fills the airways, decreasing the amount of air that can travel through even further. These factors can then trigger asthma “attack,” which is characterised by coughing and chest discomfort.
Symptoms of Asthma
The most common symptom of asthma is wheezing. This is a squealing or whistling sound that occurs when you breathe.
Other asthma symptoms may include:
- Coughing, especially at night, when laughing, or during exercise
- Tightness in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- difficulty talking
- Anxiousness or panic
- Chest pain
- Rapid breathing
- Frequent infections
- Trouble sleeping
The type of asthma you have can influence the symptoms you encounter.
Some people have symptoms that last throughout the day. Others may discover that particular activities aggravate their symptoms.
These symptoms will not be experienced by everyone who has asthma. Make an appointment with your doctor if you suspect your symptoms are related to an illness such as asthma.
Also, even if your asthma is well-controlled, you may periodically experience a flare-up of symptoms. Flare-ups often ease with the use of quick-acting medications, such as an inhaler, but in extreme situations, medical assistance may be required.
Signs of an asthma flare-up may include:
- Throat clearing
- Difficulty sleeping
- Chest pain or tightness
If your symptoms increase or do not improve after using an inhaler, you should seek medical attention right away. You should also seek care if you have any of the following symptoms of an asthma emergency:
- Severe breathing difficulty
- Gasping for air
- Pale lips or fingernails
- Difficulty walking or talking
- Blue lips or fingernails
Triggers and causes
Although asthma is more frequent in childhood, many people do not develop it until they are adults.
There is no single cause of asthmaTrusted Source. Researchers believe it is caused by a combination of causes. These elements are as follows:
Genetics. You are more likely to get asthma if a parent or sibling has it.
Virus infections in the past. People who had severe viral infections as children, such as respiratory syncytial virus infection (RSV), may be predisposed to the illness.
The hypothesis of hygiene According to this notion, when babies are not exposed to enough microorganisms in their early months and years, their immune systems do not develop sufficiently to combat asthma and other allergy disorders.
Many other causes can also aggravate asthma symptoms. Asthma triggers can vary, and some people are more sensitive to particular triggers than others.
The most common triggers include:
- Health conditions, such as respiratory infections
- Environmental irritants
- Intense emotions
- Extreme weather conditions
- Certain medications, including aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Types of Asthma and its diagnoses
There is no single test or exam that can identify whether or not you or your child has asthma. Instead, your doctor will use a number of factors to assess whether the symptoms are caused by asthma.
The following factors can aid in the diagnosis of Trusted Source asthma:
Medical history Your risk is increased if you have family members who suffer from a breathing problem. Inform your doctor about this genetic link.
Physical examination. Your doctor will use a stethoscope to examine your breathing. A skin test may also be performed to look for evidence of an allergic reaction, such as hives or eczema. Allergies raise your chances of developing asthma.
Breathing tests are performed. PFTs assess the amount of air that enters and exits your lungs. Spirometry, the most common test, involves blowing into a device that measures the speed of the air.
Doctors rarely perform breathing tests on children under the age of five because it is difficult to obtain an accurate reading.
Instead, they may give your child asthma medicine and wait to see whether the symptoms improve. If they do, your child most certainly suffers from asthma.
If your doctor determines that you have asthma, he or she may prescribe a bronchodilator or other asthma medicine. If your symptoms improve while taking this medicine, your doctor will continue to treat you as if you have asthma.
Your doctor will also need to know what kind of asthma you have. The most frequent type of asthma is allergic asthma, which accounts for 60% of all instances of asthma.
Other types of asthma are tied to a person’s life stage. Though asthma can emerge at any age, paediatric asthma affects children exclusively, whereas adult-onset asthma does not appear until maturity.
Other specific types of asthma are described below.
Allergens trigger this common type of asthma. These might include: pet dander from animals like cats and dogs, Food, Mold, Pollen, and Dust, Allergic asthma is often seasonal because it goes hand-in-hand with seasonal allergies.
Irritants in the air not related to allergies trigger this type of asthma. These irritants might include burning wood, cigarette smoke, cold air, air pollution, viral illnesses, air fresheners, household cleaning products, and perfumes.
Occupational asthma is a type of asthma induced by triggers in the workplace. These include: Dust, Dyes, gases and fumes, industrial chemicals, animal proteins, rubber latex
These irritants can exist in a wide range of industries, including Farming, Textiles, Woodworking, manufacturing
Bronchoconstriction caused by exercise (EIB)
Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) typically occurs within a few minutes of beginning exercise and can last up to 10 to 15 minutes afterwards. Previously, this illness was known as exercise-induced asthma (EIA). EIB affects up to 90% of persons with asthma, but not everyone with EIB has other kinds of asthma.
Asthma caused by aspirin
AIA, also known as aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease (AERD), is typically severe. It is brought on by the use of aspirin or another NSAID, such as naproxen (Aleve) or ibuprofen (Advil). The symptoms could appear within minutes or hours. Nasal polyps are common in people with AIA. AIA affects approximately 9% of adults with asthma. It mainly strikes adults between the ages of 20 and 50.
In this type of asthma, symptoms worsen at night. Triggers that are thought to bring on symptoms at night include heartburn, pet dander, and dust mites. The body’s natural sleep cycle may also trigger nocturnal asthma.
Asthma with a cough (CVA)
Cough-variant asthma (CVA) is distinguished by the absence of conventional asthma symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath. It is distinguished by a persistent, dry cough. CVA, if left untreated, can develop into full-blown asthma episodes, along with the other more typical symptoms.
Treatment of Asthma
The National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP)Trusted Source defines asthma depending on severity before therapy to aid in treatment.
Asthma is classified as follows:
Intermittent.- This form of asthma is common and does not interfere with daily activities. The symptoms are minor, lasting no more than two days per week or two nights per month.
Mildly persistent.- The symptoms occur more than twice a week, although not on a daily basis, and can last up to four nights each month.
Moderately persistent.- The symptoms occur on a daily basis and at least one night per week, although not on a nightly basis. Some daily activities may be restricted.
Persistently severe- Symptoms appear multiple times per day and most evenings. Daily activities are severely restricted.
Treatments for asthma fall into four primary categories:
- quick relief medications
- long-term control medications
- a combination of quick relief and long-term control medications. The most current asthma clinical guidelinesTrusted Source, released in 2020 by the NAEPP, recommend this treatment.
However, this treatment is not yet approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).
biologics, which are given by injection or infusion usually only for severe forms of asthma
Your doctor will recommend one treatment or a combination of treatments based on:
- the type of asthma you have
- your age
- your triggers
- Your treatment plan may also involve learning your triggers, monitoring your symptoms carefully, and taking steps to avoid flare-ups.
Asthma first aid treatment
If you suspect a loved one is experiencing an asthma attack, urge them to sit up straight and help them use their rescue inhaler or nebulizer.
The dosage varies according to the drug. Check the directions insert to ensure you understand how many puffs of medication you will require in the event of an attack. Seek emergency medical assistance if symptoms linger for more than 20 minutes and the second dose of medication does not help. Ask your doctor about another type of medication for long-term asthma management if you frequently need to use quick-relief treatments.
What exactly is an asthma attack?
An exacerbation, also known as an asthma attack, occurs when your asthma symptoms worsen. Because the airways have enlarged and the bronchial tubes have narrowed, breathing becomes increasingly difficult.
The symptoms of an exacerbation may include trusted Sources:
- shortness of breath
- increased heart rate
- blue lips
Although an exacerbation can end quickly without medication, you should contact your doctor because it can be life threatening.
The longer an exacerbation lasts, the more it can interfere with your ability to breathe. That is why exacerbations frequently necessitate a trip to the emergency department. Exacerbations can be avoided by using asthma drugs that assist regulate your symptoms.
How to prevent asthma attacks?
Because experts have yet to pinpoint the exact aetiology of asthma, determining ways to prevent the inflammatory condition is difficult.
However, there is greater knowledge on preventing asthma episodes. Among these strategies are:
- Keeping triggers at bay. Avoid chemicals, odours, or products that have previously caused respiratory problems.
- lowering allergen exposure If you’ve discovered allergens that cause asthma attacks, such as dust or mould, try to avoid them as much as possible.
- Having allergy shots Allergen immunotherapy is a sort of treatment that may aid in the modification of your immune system. Your body may become less sensitive to any triggers you experience as a result of frequent shots.
- Taking preventative medicine. Your doctor may advise you to take medication on a daily basis. This drug may be taken in addition to the emergency medication.
Your doctor can assist you in developing an asthma action plan so that you know which treatments to use and when.
Aside from utilising maintenance drugs, you can take steps every day to improve your health and lower your risk of asthma episodes. These are some examples:
- Eating a more nutritious diet. A healthy, well-balanced diet can help you enhance your overall health.
- Maintaining a healthy weight. Asthma is more common in those who are overweight or obese. Losing weight is good for your heart, joints, and lungs.
- If you smoke, you should stop. Cigarette smoke, for example, can induce asthma and raise your risk of COPD.
- Regular exercise. Although activity can cause an asthma attack, regular exercise may help lower the chance of breathing problems.
- Stress management. Asthma symptoms might be exacerbated by stress. Stress might also make it more difficult to halt an asthma episode.
Nutrient-rich diets are essential for symptom reduction, but food allergies can exacerbate asthma symptoms.
When should you see a doctor?
As of now, there is no cure for asthma. However, there are numerous effective treatments available to alleviate asthma symptoms. Changes in lifestyle and drugs can also assist to improve your quality of life. If you haven’t been diagnosed with asthma but are having symptoms like wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath, you should see your doctor. Once you’ve been diagnosed with asthma, you should see your doctor at least once a year, and more frequently if your symptoms persist despite therapy.
Call your doctor immediately if you:
- feel weak
- can’t perform daily activities
- have a wheeze or cough that won’t go away
It’s essential to educate yourself about your condition and its symptoms. The more you know, the more proactive you can be in improving your lung function and how you feel.
Talk with your doctor about:
- your type of asthma
- what triggers your symptoms
- what daily treatments are best for you
- your treatment plan for an asthma attack
Asthma is a lung condition that causes inflammation and makes breathing difficult. It can impact both adults and children in various ways and to varying degrees of severity.
It can be treated with a variety of drugs. Bronchodilators are the most commonly used therapy, which can be used either short-term to treat an asthma attack or long-term to manage symptoms over time.
Changes in lifestyle may also help minimise asthma flare-ups. This can involve modifications to one’s nutrition, exercise, or stress management. Consult your doctor to determine the type of asthma you have and the best medication and management choices for you.