Asthma symptoms, causes and treatment

Asthma is a common, yet possibly life-threatening condition that affects the airways to the lungs. Common symptoms of asthma include chest tightness, cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath. It can range from mild to severe, and there are treatments available to ease and prevent symptoms from occurring.

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 A person with asthma should always have their treatment on hand in case of an attack. They should have a preventer inhaler that they need to use every day to prevent symptoms from developing. Likewise, a reliever inhaler should be handy in case there is a flare-up of symptoms.

What is Asthma, and how does it affect a patient?

People with asthma suffer from a condition that affects the smaller airways of the lungs. The bronchioles or the small airways constrict when a sufferer has a flare-up. The extent of constriction and how long it lasts varies widely. 

Asthma may start at any age, but it is common in children. There is at least one in every ten children and one in every 20 adults affected by this condition. It may run in some families, but there are also cases where there are no other family members who are affected. 

Causes of Asthma

Asthma symptoms are triggered by many different things for different people. The inflammation of the airways causes the muscles around it to squeeze and contract. The narrowing makes it hard for a sufferer to get more air in and out of the lungs. It can lead to breathlessness and wheezing. It may also cause the lining to produce excess mucus, thereby causing cough and further obstruction in the airflow. 

The symptoms can flare up now and then, and often there is no apparent reason for the attack. Some people find that their condition is triggered or are worse in specific situations such as DVT. It is possible to avoid these triggers and reduce the manifestations. Some noted triggers or causes include the following:

  • Infections – cold, cough and respiratory infections
  • Pollens and molds – the condition is worse in hay fever season
  • Certain medications – most sufferers are allergic to aspirin, anti-inflammatory painkillers, and beta-blockers. 
  • Exercise – sports and exercise are useful even if you have asthma. You can use a preventer inhaler before engaging in any sports. If exercise triggers you to have symptoms, you may have undertreated asthma.
  • Smoking and cigarette fumes – if you have asthma and you still smoke, make an effort to stop. Likewise, passive smoking can make the condition worse for sufferers. Even where adults smoke away from children, smoke on clothes or hair may trigger a flare-up. 
  • Chemicals and fumes – fumes from solvents, paints, and pollution may trigger an asthma attack. 
  • Some mattresses and pillows – feathers or chemicals in some pillows and mattresses may cause people to develop asthma.
  • Emotions – while it may not be due to nerves, some attacks are triggered by stress, laughing, or emotional upset.  
  • Allergies to animals – although pets and animals do not trigger the symptoms, some people notice that their conditions are worse when they are close to some animals.
  • Dust Mites – these tiny creatures that are living in your home fabrics, or linens can make asthma worse for most sufferers. 
  • Some Food – while uncommon, some sufferers are triggered by eating some types of food.  

Some people only have symptoms when they are exposed to triggers, for instance, exercise-induced asthma or when exposed to specific chemicals. 

Diagnosis and Treatment

Asthma symptoms are distinctive, and doctors can quickly make a diagnosis. If there are doubts, there are simple tests that can be arranged. Doctors will make a detailed history and physical examination of the patient. Some tests that you will be required include chest X-ray, pulmonary function tests, and blood tests. 

There are also different types of asthma, and understanding each one can get you to the most effective treatment. Some of the common types are:

  • Allergic Asthma – this type relates to the development of symptoms after a person is exposed to allergens and triggers such as dust mites, animal dander, and mold. 

  • Exercise-induced asthma – this type affects one in five people and is characterized by bronchoconstriction. Symptoms are noted to develop during or after exercise. 

  • Occupational Asthma – the condition often results due to exposure to triggers in the workplace. 

  • Cough Variant Asthma – cough is the most significant manifestation of this type. 

  • Nocturnal Asthma – the symptoms for this type of asthma usually interferes with the person’s sleep. 

Apart from the regular physical examination and medical history check, doctors will also conduct lung function tests to see how well the air flows in your lungs. Some of the tests are:

  • Spirometry – a simple breathing test to check how much and who fast is the air you blow out. It shows the severity of obstruction in your airways. 

  • Methacholine Challenge – if your symptoms and your spirometry test results don’t clearly show your condition, your doctor may ask for this test. 

  • Peak Flow – this test measures how forceful the lungs push out air. It may be less accurate than spirometry, but it is a good test for your lungs, even when you don’t feel any symptoms. 

  • Exhaled Nitric Oxide Test – this test lets you breathe into a machine that checks the nitric oxide content in your breathe. If your airways are inflamed, the level of this gas is elevated. 

What are the treatments for Asthma?

Asthma treatment is more focused on prevention, control of symptoms, and reduction of inflammation. Most people with asthma have an action plan, otherwise known as a roadmap to excellent asthma control

Treatment plans are individualized, as there are no identical asthma cases. You should periodically have checkups with your doctor to cover essential areas where you should pay attention to prevent problems.  

  • Monitoring – this is needed to keep an eye on the frequency and severity of symptoms. You can better take proper action or identify the things you do that set up an attack. 
  • Prevention – keeping a diary may help if you have worsening asthma symptoms. It can help identify patterns at a different exposure. It will help you stay away from the triggers. 
  • Medications – asthma treatment plans combine the use of a regular reliever and preventer inhalers. Some patients are given calcium supplements to help strengthen bones, which may be affected by long-term use of steroidal inhalers. 

Likewise, there are also oral medications and estrogen medications that help open up the airways. These are in addition to the inhalers that are commonly used by asthma patients. 

What are the normal conditions?

Having asthma can be challenging. Being diagnosed with this condition may leave you feeling frustrated that you will not be able to do or enjoy the things you do before the diagnosis. However, by paying close attention to details, you can succeed with your asthma management plan and lead an active and healthy life. It all boils down to learning what you need to be in control of your condition. 

Medications are available when you become compliant. But you must move toward better strategies to mitigate trigger exposures. Likewise, ask for social support from family and friends. You can also learn more about people living with asthma and how you can apply their best practices to your case. 

Risks of Having Asthma

A person usually has risk factors that make them prone to having respiratory problems such as asthma. Although it can happen without any risk factors, a flare-up is less likely to occur if there are no triggers present. 

Some risk factors are unavoidable, but there are some factors that you can control with a few lifestyle changes. Avoidance of these risk factors is vital in preventing symptoms eczema and triggers. Take control of your asthma by managing your risk factors. The first step is understanding them so that you can stop and control your condition. 

  • Gender – childhood asthma is more prevalent in boys than in girls. The reason for this is unknown, but experts say that boy’s airways are smaller than the girls. In early adulthood, the ratio between males and females is the same, but at age 40, there are more cases of asthma in females than males. 
  • Family Genetics – if your parents have asthma, you have inherited genes that predispose you to have the condition. Most asthma cases are hereditary, and having a parent with this illness makes you three to six times more likely to develop it as well. 
  • Atopy and Asthma – atopy is a heightened sensitivity to common allergens eczema, particularly in food and air. Some children with atopic dermatitis or eczema may also develop asthma. 

Other factors that trigger asthma include pollution, fumes, weather changes, and cigarette smoke. Studies also look into the link between obesity and asthma. 

When to Seek Medical Attention

Asthma is a common condition, but it can become a life-threatening illness. If your symptoms are not adequately controlled or are getting worse, call your doctor immediately. 

You may find yourself having troublesome night-time cough or wheezing, lower peak flow, and need more of your reliever inhaler more often. You may need to adjust your timing or dose to control your symptoms better.

On the other hand, you need urgent medical attention when you develop severe symptoms that are not relieved by your medication. If you experience difficulty talking due to shortness of breath, you need emergency treatment. 

Table of Medications

  • Singulair
  • montelukast
  • prednisone
  • Dulera
  • Atrovent
  • ipratropium
  • Breo Ellipta
  • Alvesco
  • flunisolide
  • methylprednisolone