Asthma- A Detailed Discussion

Asthma affects different people in different ways. While for some it is a minor ailment but for a lot of other people, it causes major interference in their daily lives, leading to life-threatening asthma attacks at times. About 15-20 million people are asthmatic in India which is a matter of grave concern. To make the matter worse as many as 10% to 15% of children within the age bracket of 5 years to 15 years suffer from asthma. This is a hugely shocking and alarming factor.

Asthma is characterized by narrow and inflamed airways. This makes it difficult for the patient to breathe and results in wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. Inability to talk and decreased activity are symptoms of a severe asthmatic condition.

Unfortunately, asthma cannot be cured but luckily the symptoms are controllable. It is to be noted that asthma changes over time in many cases. Thus, it is important for the patients to keep in touch with their doctors and adjust treatment as per the signs and symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of Asthma

The signs and symptoms of asthma vary from one patient to another. Some of the symptoms of asthma include:

  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty in sleeping due to coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Whistling sound while exhaling
  • Frequent episodes of coughing

The flare-up of signs and symptoms of asthma happens in certain situations for some people. These are:

  • Exercise-induced asthma that worsens if the air is dry and cold
  • Allergy-induced asthma, prompted by airborne substances like mold spores, pollen, cockroach waste, dried saliva, skin, hair or fur shed by pets

Causes of Asthma

It is unclear as to why some people have asthma while others do not. It is probably a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Triggers of Asthma

Exposure to different substances and irritants that causes allergies can trigger asthma as well. The trigger would, however, vary from patient to patient. The triggers include:

  • Airborne substances like mold spores, dust mites, pollen, cockroach waste particles, pet danger
  • Air pollutants and irritants like smoke, strong perfume odors
  • Cold air, humidity or changes in temperature,
  • Physical activity like exercise
  • Respiratory infections like the common cold, flu, and sinusitis
  • Stress or feeling of strong emotion
  • Medications such as aspirin, beta blockers, naproxen, ibuprofen
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD
  • Foods and beverages containing preservatives and sulfites like processed potatoes, dried fruit, shrimp, etc.

Asthma Risk Factors

There are a number of things that can increase your chance of getting asthma. These are:

  • Exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Being overweight
  • Exposure to exhaust fumes and other kinds of pollution
  • Being a smoker
  • Having a family or blood relative with asthma
  • Having some other allergic condition like allergic rhinitis, atopic dermatitis, etc.
  • Exposure to occupational triggers like chemicals used in hairdressing, manufacturing, and farming

How is Asthma Diagnosed?

Physical examination and detailed history form the basis of asthma diagnosis. While primary-care providers can diagnose asthma but at times specialist like a pulmonologist can also be involved. A typical asthma patient’s history would have a family member with allergic conditions or a personal history of allergic rhinitis. Patients could have a tendency towards respiratory infections and bronchitis as well.

There are certain other diagnostic procedures of asthma alongside history and examination. These are:

  • Lung function testing with spirometry
  • Chest imaging
  • Cardiac testing to rule out other conditions is also done in certain cases
  • Skin testing for regular aeroallergens
  • Specialists also measure sputum eosinophil at times

Asthma Treatment Options

The goal to treat asthma includes:

  • Maintaining normal lung function
  • Minimize the risk of exacerbations in the future
  • Control symptoms adequately
  • Retain normal levels of activity
  • Use as fewer medicines as possible

It is important to ensure minimum exposure to second-hand smoke when treating asthma. Treating conditions such as GERD and allergic rhinitis could improve asthma control to a great extent. Annual influenza and pneumonia vaccinations are also given in certain cases.

Although most asthma patients are treated as outpatients treatment of severe exacerbations would require inpatient hospitalization or management in the emergency medical department. Patients would need supplemental oxygen, continuous or frequent administration of bronchodilators through a nebulized solution and early administration of systemic steroids.

Nightingales is offering respiratory care program to the people suffering from a severe form of asthma or other kinds of respiratory diseases. The best thing about this program is that patient can avail it from the comfort of their home thereby eliminating the need of frequent hospital stays due to severe condition. Our team of experts offers specialized care to enhance the quality of life of the patients. Our team proves to be a great support system for those who seek our assistance to help with frequent asthma attacks.

Image Credits – Medical photo created by freepik –

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