The condition asthma, also known as bronchial asthma, affects your lungs. This is a chronic (long-term) condition. Lungs receive and expel air through their airways. When you suffer from asthma, your airways may become inflamed and narrowed. In turn, this makes it difficult for air to flow out of your airways when you exhale. This can cause coughing, whistling (wheezing) as you exhale, and shortness of breath.
There are some people who suffer from asthma who find it a minor inconvenience. In others, it can be a life-threatening condition that interferes with daily activities and may cause asthma attacks.
The symptoms of asthma can be controlled, but the illness cannot be cured. Since asthma symptoms often change over time, it's important to track them with your doctor and adjust your treatment as needed.
Asthma symptoms vary from person to person. When you have asthma, you may have infrequent attacks, have symptoms only during certain times such as when exercising, or have symptoms all the time.
Asthma signs and symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness or pain
- Children with asthma commonly wheeze when exhaling
- Having trouble sleeping because of shortness of breath, coughing, or wheezing
- The presence of a respiratory virus, such as the common cold or influenza, causes coughing or wheezing attacks
Your asthma may be getting worse if you notice the following signs:
- The presence of more frequent and bothersome asthma symptoms
- A device used to measure how well your lungs are working (peak flow meter) shows increasing difficulty breathing
- More frequent use of quick-relief inhalers
- Certain situations trigger asthma symptoms for some people:
- A cold, dry environment may exacerbate exercise-induced asthma
- Workplace irritants, such as chemical fumes, gases, and dust, can trigger occupational asthma
- Asthma caused by airborne allergens, such as pollen, mold spores, cockroach waste, or dried saliva shed by pets (pet dander).
The causes of asthma:
Asthma may be caused by a combination of environmental and inherited (genetic) factors. There is no clear reason why some people develop asthma while others do not.
Asthma can be triggered by exposure to various irritants and substances that exasperate allergies (allergens). Individuals with asthma may experience different triggers, such as:
- Respiratory problems can be caused by airborne allergens such as pollen, dust mites, mold spores, pet dander, or cockroach waste.
- Respiratory infections, such as the common cold
- Physical activity
- Cold air
- Air pollutants and irritants, such as smoke
- Medications such as beta blockers, aspirin, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, including ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, etc.) and naproxen sodium (Aleve), may cause asthma as the side effect.
- Strong emotions and stress
- Foods and beverages containing sulfites and preservatives For example, shrimp, dried fruit, processed potatoes, beer, and wine
- GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a condition in which stomach acids flow up your throat
You are more likely to develop asthma if you are exposed to certain factors. They include:
- Being related to someone with asthma, such as a parent or sibling
- Other allergic conditions, such as atopic dermatitis (red, itchy skin) or hay fever (runny nose, congestion and itchy eyes)
- Being overweight
- Being a smoker
- Exposure to secondhand smoke
- Lay open to exhaust fumes or other types of pollution
- Triggers in the workplace, such as chemicals used in agriculture, hairdressing, and manufacturing
What asthma treatment options are there?
It is possible to manage asthma in a variety of ways. Medications may be prescribed by your healthcare provider to control symptoms. These include:
A bronchodilator relaxes the muscles around your airways. Air can flow through the airways when the muscles are relaxed. Additionally, they facilitate mucus movement through the airways. Intermittent and chronic asthma patients can use these medicines to relieve their symptoms when they occur.
Anti-inflammatory medicines: These medicines reduce swelling and mucus production in your lungs. By making it easier for air to enter and exit your lungs, they facilitate breathing. To control or prevent chronic asthma symptoms, your healthcare provider may prescribe them every day.
Asthma biologic therapies: These are used when inhaler therapy fails to relieve symptoms of severe asthma.
Asthma medicines can be taken in a variety of ways. Medications can be inhaled with a metered-dose inhaler, a nebulizer, or another type of asthma inhaler. You may be prescribed oral medications by your healthcare provider.
In case of severe asthma attacks, what should I do?
- In the event of a severe asthma attack, medical attention should be sought immediately.
- Use your rescue inhaler first. An inhaler that opens your airways quickly uses fast-acting medicines. You don’t use it every day like a maintenance inhaler. In case of severe flares, you can use the rescue inhaler more frequently.
- You should go to the emergency department if your rescue inhaler doesn’t work or you don’t have it with you
- If you experience any of the symptoms listed below, you should immediately visit a hospital
- Anxiety or panic.
- Chest pain or pressure.
- You may experience continuous coughing or difficult breathing due to severe wheezing.
- Difficulty talking.
- Pale, sweaty face.
- Very quick or rapid breathing.
Asthma is a manageable condition, but it requires vigilance and timely medical intervention during severe exacerbations to ensure the safety and well-being of individuals living with asthma.
Disclaimer: This is general information about the disease and treatment options, please consult a specialist doctor for right diagnosis and treatment which may vary based on each patient. Book an appointment with your specialist to know further.