What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic lung disease affecting millions of individuals globally. It is defined by inflammation and airway constriction, which causes breathing problems, coughing, and wheezing. Although asthma can appear at any age, children and young people are most affected. Many people manage this condition successfully with the help of medication and by identifying their triggers and making lifestyle changes. Common triggers for asthma attacks include exposure to allergens such as pollens and pet dander, cold air, and stress. Some people may also experience exercise-induced asthma.

Asthma can be a severe condition; if left untreated, it can lead to hospitalization and even fatal. Therefore, people with asthma need to work closely with their healthcare provider to develop an individualized treatment plan that meets their needs. Sometimes, respiratory conditions, including emphysema, bronchitis, and lower respiratory infections, might appear similar to asthma. Many asthmatics are unaware of their condition. Consult the doctor for a proper diagnosis.


Types

Types of Asthma include

  • Allergic asthma
  • Seasonal asthma
  • Occupational asthma
  • Non-allergic asthma
  • Exercise-induced asthma
  • Difficult asthma
  • Severe asthma
  • Brittle asthma
  • Childhood asthma,
  • Adult-onset asthma

Symptoms

The following are the symptoms of Asthma includes:

  • Coughing, especially at night, when laughing, or during exercise
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty talking
  • Anxiousness or panic.
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid breathing
  • Frequent infections
  • Trouble sleeping

When to see a doctor?

If an asthmatic attack is difficult to control and a person is having severe breathing problems then it is advisable to consult a doctor. Signs of an asthma emergency include:

  • Breathlessness or wheeze getting worse rapidly.
  • No improvement after using a quick-relief inhaler.
  • Shortness of breath after doing minimal physical activity.
  • If you develop any new symptoms.

Causes

The specific reason why some people develop an asthmatic attack while others don't is unknown. Asthma symptoms and indications can be caused by exposure to various irritants and chemicals that cause allergies (allergens). Everyone has different triggers for severe asthma. They can include:

  • Airborne allergens
  • Respiratory infections, such as the common cold
  • Physical activity
  • Cold air
  • Air pollutants and irritants, such as smoke.
  • Certain medications, including beta blockers, aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium
  • Strong emotions and stress
  • Sulfites and preservatives that are added to foods and beverages
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease

Risk Factors

Asthma risk is known to be affected by a wide range of factors. They include the following.

  • Genetics : Someone with one or both asthmatic parents is more likely to acquire asthma than someone without. Therefore, a family history may be a significant risk factor for this lung condition.
  • Allergies : People with hay fever or drug allergies may develop asthma. Interestingly, even those with eczema tend to be susceptible to developing asthma. Exposure to asthma triggers can induce an asthmatic attack.
  • Pollution : Asthma can trigger in places with excessive air pollution.
  • Smoking : People who smoke are more likely to develop asthma because cigarette smoke causes lung inflammation. Asthma is also more common in those exposed to secondhand smoke or whose parents smoked while pregnant.
  • Obesity : Obesity: People who are obese have a greater risk of asthma, and mild inflammation from having extra body weight may contribute to this risk factor. It also increases the risk of disease exacerbation.
  • Viral respiratory infections : Although some viral respiratory illnesses can cause wheezing, some children get asthma. This may be due to changes these illnesses can create in a developing immune system.

Complications

Asthma that is not carefully managed can lead to:

  • Constant fatigue
  • Pneumonia
  • Constant asthma flare-ups
  • Thickening and narrowing of bronchial tubes, which leads to respiratory failure.
  • Increased mucus production
  • Severe chest pain

Prevention

It is difficult to know how to avoid the inflammatory disorder because experts have not yet identified the exact cause of asthma. These techniques include:

  • Avoiding triggers like chemicals, smells, or anything previously affecting your respiratory system.
  • Reduce exposure to allergens that may trigger asthma attacks, such as dust or mold.
  • By getting allergy shots in the required time frame, our bodies may become less sensitive to any triggers we encounter.
  • Taking preventive medications as prescribed by the doctor.

Diagnosis

A doctor will monitor a person's symptoms, family and medical history, and test results. The type of asthma a person has will be recognized by the triggering factors. Keeping track of one's symptoms and potential causes might be beneficial for the doctor to get a precise diagnosis. The following can help diagnose asthma:

  • Physical examination : The doctor examines the upper respiratory tract, the chest, and the skin. They'll check for wheezing, which might indicate asthma or airway obstruction.
  • They will also check for-
    • Swollen nasal passages
    • Runny nose
    • Any unusual growths inside the nose
  • Asthma tests : The doctor could suggest a lung function test to determine the lungs function. The most common lung function test used by physicians to identify asthma is the spirometry test.
  • Other diagnostic tests include:
  • Challenge test : This test enables a doctor to assess how asthma triggers like cold air, exercise, or inhaled drugs affect a person.
  • Allergy testing : The doctor may use a skin or blood test to determine the patient's allergic reaction.
  • Blood test : Blood test: A blood test is done to check for elevated eosinophils and immunoglobulin E levels, an antibody found in allergic asthmatic patients.
  • Chest X-ray : Chest X-ray: X-rays are medical imaging tests that use a small amount of ionizing radiation to produce images of the structures and organs in the chest. It helps to detect diseases of the lungs or the heart.

Treatment

To manage symptoms, your doctor may recommend drugs. These consist of-

  • Bronchodilators : These drugs relax the muscles that surround the airways. They also allow better passage of mucus across the airways. These medications are used for both intermittent and chronic asthma, and they ease the symptoms.
  • Anti-inflammatory medicines : These drugs decrease airway swelling and mucus production. They assist the flow of air into and out of the lungs. To treat or avoid your chronic asthma symptoms, your doctor may prescribe them for daily dosage.
  • Biologic therapies for asthma : They are utilized when severe asthma symptoms continue despite receiving the proper inhaler medication.

Do's and Don’ts

We know how badly the respiratory condition can affect our everyday life, and asthma is debilitating sometimes. Some asthma management practices may seem obvious, while others may need to be more apparent. Here, we have compiled dos and don'ts to remember when controlling your symptoms.

Do’s Don’ts
Stay away from areas where there is high air pollution. Use scented candles, air fresheners, or other fragrances in your home.
Keep your inhalers handy. Use asthma medicines without consulting the doctor
Get your flu shot on time to avoid any complications. Smoke or be around secondhand smoke
Keep your home free of dust mites, cockroaches, and mold. Ignore early warning signs of an asthma attack
Use your inhaled medications as directed by your healthcare provider. Get exposed to asthma triggering factors

Care at Medicover Hospitals

At Medicover, we have a highly qualified team of pulmonologists who offer the best treatment and management for asthma. Our specialists use the latest diagnostic techniques and cutting-edge technology to diagnose and promptly begin treating various lung diseases accurately. Our specialists regularly evaluate patients' health and treatment progress to ensure a speedier and more lasting recovery.

Citations

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/asthma
https://www.cdc.gov/asthma/default.htm
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/asthma/
https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/asthma
https://aafa.org/asthma/asthma-facts/
https://acaai.org/asthma/
https://asthma.ca/get-help/understanding-asthma/
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Frequently Asked Questions

1.Can asthma be managed without medication?

Individuals with asthma can reduce symptoms by identifying triggers, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and following an asthma action plan developed with their healthcare provider, although medication is often necessary.

2.How is asthma diagnosed at Medicover, and what tests are involved?

At Medicover, our asthma specialists use a combination of medical history, physical examinations, and lung function tests to diagnose asthma. Lung function tests may include spirometry and peak flow measurements. These tests help assess your lung function and airway responsiveness, aiding in an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.

3.What are common asthma medications?

Asthma medications include bronchodilators (relievers) to open airways quickly and controllers (inhaled corticosteroids, leukotriene modifiers) to manage inflammation and reduce asthma attacks. Biologics may be used for severe asthma.

4.Is asthma life-threatening?

Asthma can be life-threatening during severe asthma attacks. However, with proper management and medication, the risk of life-threatening situations is significantly reduced, and most individuals with asthma lead everyday, healthy lives.

5.Can children outgrow asthma?

Some children may outgrow asthma as they age, but many continue to experience asthma symptoms throughout adulthood. Regular monitoring and management are essential to control symptoms and reduce their impact.

6.How can I best support a loved one with asthma?

Supporting a loved one with asthma involves understanding their condition, helping them adhere to their treatment plan, creating an asthma-friendly environment (e.g., a smoke-free home), and knowing how to respond in case of an asthma attack (use a reliever inhaler and seeking medical help if needed).

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