What is Asthma?
Asthma symptoms affect an estimated 26 million Americans and are one of the leading causes of absences from work. So, what is Asthma?
Asthma is a respiratory condition involving spasms in the bronchi of the lungs. This results in trouble breathing and is commonly a result of allergic reactions or hypersensitivity to external substances. Because of this some forms of asthma are called ‘allergic asthma.’
Asthma is a condition which cannot be cured, but it can be treated and managed using effective medicine and preventive measures. A person with asthma will be relieved to know they can live a long, healthy life if they follow their doctor's prescribed health plan.
Causes of Asthma
Asthma is a condition which often begins in childhood and affects the airways that carry air to and from your lungs. The inside wall of an asthmatic patient is swollen and inflamed, making the airways extremely sensitive to irritants and allergens.
The airways become narrower due to this swelling, and air is less freely allowed to enter or exit the lungs. Asthmatic symptoms like wheezing, chest tightness and breathing problems then follow.
Asthma attacks can be mild, severe or life-threatening in worst cases. The narrowed airways mean that carbon dioxide does not leave your lungs at the rate it would normally. As a result, it can build up in your lungs and increase the risk of toxicity during a prolonged attack, as well as lowering oxygen levels in your bloodstream.
Asthmatic attacks are also called ‘episodes’ and may occur a few times a day or over a week. The severity of the attacks depends on an individual’s physiology, and overall health and fitness levels can also play a factor.
Various studies have suggested asthma be caused both by genetic and environmental factors like specific allergens and air pollutants. In addition, some medicinal drugs like aspiring and certain beta blocker medications can also aggravate asthma symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms of Asthma
As mentioned earlier, asthma symptoms will vary from person to person. You may experience them from time to time, or as regularly as a few times every week.
Most notable signs and symptoms of asthma include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains and tightness
- Trouble sleeping due to coughing
- Sleep apnea in some cases
- Whistling sound when exhaling
- Severe coughing or wheezing attacks, which worsen when paired with a respiratory virus like a flu or cold.
- Frequent colds that settle in the chest, especially for children
These symptoms are common for all types of asthmatic illnesses. To elaborate more on the various types of asthma and their causes, we’ve made a list:
- Asthma caused by Exercise
Some people experience different asthmatic symptoms when they run, swim or play a sport. It may worsen if patients are exercising in a cold and dry environment.
- Occupational Asthma
This form of asthma is caused by environmental irritants and allergens, which can be found in schools or workplaces. These irritants include chemical fumes, gases, and dust, among others.
- Allergic Asthma
Asthma may be aggravated by allergens and hypersensitivity in many cases. This is why it is often called allergic asthma. Airborne substances like pollens, mold spores, skin particles, animal dander, and other irritants can trigger an asthmatic response.
- Emotion-induced Asthma
A strong physical display of emotions such as shouting, laughing or crying can also be triggered to stimulate asthma symptoms. This also includes panic; when patient frantically panics, the bronchial tubes constrict rapidly and possibly worsen an already severe attack.
Another common problem that people with asthma suffer is stress. Due to recurring episodes and symptoms, many patients feel stress regarding their work, education and emotional well-being.
This can possibly worsen into depression. To prevent such complications that affect the quality of life, seek medical attention immediately and invest in good asthmatic medicines and asthma inhalers.
Asthma is an incurable illness, but that does not mean it cannot be managed. Consult your doctor to help devise a thorough plan depending on the severity of your asthma symptoms to prevent a recurrent pattern.
Asthma medications that are prescribed to you depend on certain factors such as your age, symptoms, triggers and what is most effective in keeping your asthma under control. Most medications are long-term asthma control medications and quick-relief inhalers.
There are various long-term asthma medications available which lower attack occurrences. Examples of such medicines are:
- Inhaled Corticosteroids: These anti-inflammatory drugs such as Flonase, ciclesonide, and flunisolide are safe for long-term use and have low risks of side-effects
- Leukotriene modifiers: These are oral medications which help relieve asthma symptoms for up to 24 hours.
- Combination inhalers: These medications contain a long-acting beta agonist along with a corticosteroid.
For rapid, short-term symptom relief during an asthma attack, you can opt for quick-relief inhalers such as the following:
- Short-acting beta inhalers: These quick-relief bronchodilators act within minutes to rapidly ease asthma symptoms during an attack.
- Atrovent inhalers: They act quickly to relax your airways, and are also used for emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
- Oral corticosteroids: These help to relieve airway inflammation caused by severe asthma.
Asthma is indeed often related to allergy. When triggers are allergenic in nature, you can consider these forms of treatment:
- Allergy shots: Usually as part of an immunotherapy approach, allergy shots focus on reducing your immune system’s reaction to specific irritants. This approach is typically undertaken over the course of a few years as effectiveness takes some to develop.
- Omalizumab: This is a medication administered as an injection every 2 to 4 weeks. It is specifically for people who have severe allergies and asthma. Omalizumab acts by altering the body’s immune system.
Consult with your doctor regarding which asthma inhalers and medication would be best for you to deal with the asthma symptoms being experienced. Your doctor’s recommendation will depend on any other medical conditions you might have, as well as the severity and the type of the asthma you’re dealing with. Trying to self-medicate with professional consultation in hopes of treating your asthma symptoms is inadvisable. Speak with your family doctor and trust in his or her expertise.
- Mayo Clinic – Asthma
- Medical News Today – What is Asthma? What Causes Asthma?
- eMedicinehealth – Asthma