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Asthma

Asthma is an inflammatory disease in which your airways narrow and swell and may produce extra mucus. It makes breathing difficult and triggers a bout of coughing; a whistling sound and you may experience shortness of breath. For some people, Asthma is a minor inconvenience, but for others, it makes some physical activities challenging or even impossible. There is no cure for Asthma, but its symptoms can be controlled.

Asthma often changes over time, and thus you should work with your doctor to track your signs and symptoms and adjust your treatment as needed.

 

Symptoms

The most common symptom of Asthma is wheezing- It is a squealing or whistling sound made when you breathe.

Other asthma symptoms may include:

  • coughing, especially when laughing, during exercise or at night
  • shortness of breath
  • tightness in the chest
  • difficulty talking
  • anxiousness or panic
  • fatigue

There are different types of Asthma, and a particular type will determine which symptoms you experience.

Types of Asthma

Bronchial Asthma is the most common type of Asthma, which affects the bronchi in the lungs. Other Asthma includes childhood asthma and adult-onset asthma. In adult-onset asthma, symptoms will not appear until at least age 20.

Other specific types of Asthma are the following:

1. Allergic Asthma (extrinsic Asthma)

Allergens are the cause of this common type of Asthma. Allergic Asthma is quite often seasonal because it goes hand-in-hand with seasonal allergies.

These might include:

  • pet dander from animals like dogs, cats and rodents
  • food
  • mould
  • pollen
  • dust

2. Nonallergic Asthma (intrinsic Asthma)

Irritants in the air but not related to particular allergies trigger this type of Asthma. These are:

  • burning wood
  • cigarette smoke
  • cold air
  • air pollution
  • viral illnesses
  • air fresheners
  • household cleaning products
  • perfumes

3. Occupational Asthma

Occupational Asthma is caused by working in dangerous environmental conditions. These include:

  • dust
  • dyes
  • gases and fumes
  • industrial chemicals
  • animal proteins
  • rubber latex

4. Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB)

Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) affects people within a few minutes of starting strenuous exercise.

5. Aspirin-induced Asthma

Aspirin-induced Asthma (AIA) is caused due to the intake of aspirin or another NSAID (a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug), such as naproxen (Aleve) or ibuprofen (Advil).

6. Nocturnal Asthma

In this type of Asthma, symptoms develop at night.

Triggers that are thought to bring on symptoms are:

  • heartburn
  • pet dander
  • dust mites

7. Cough-variant Asthma (CVA)

A persistent, dry cough characterizes Cough-variant Asthma (CVA). If not treated quickly, it can lead to full-blown asthma flares that include the other more common symptoms.

Diagnosis

The doctor will conduct a variety of tests to determine if the symptoms are the result of Asthma.

The following tests can help diagnose Asthma:

  • Health history: The doctor may examine your family history to check for any genetic connection.
  • Physical exam: The doctor will check your breathing with a stethoscope and look for signs of an allergic reaction.
  • Breathing tests: The doctor may recommend Pulmonary function tests (PFTs) that measure airflow into and out of your lungs.

Treatment

Treatments for Asthma comprise of three primary categories:

  1. Breathing exercises
  2. Quick-acting treatments
  3. Long-term asthma control medications

Your doctor will determine and plan your treatment based on:

  • the type of Asthma you have
  • your age
  • your triggers

1. Breathing exercises

Breathing exercises will help you get more air into and out of your lungs. This will help you expand and increase lung capacity and cut down on severe asthma symptoms.

2. Quick-relief asthma treatments

These medications are prescribed by the doctor in the event of asthma symptoms or an attack. These medicines will provide you with quick relief and help you breathe again.

  • Bronchodilators: Bronchodilators helps the tightened muscles around your airwaves to relax within minutes. They can be used as an inhaler (rescue) or nebulizer.
  • First aid asthma treatment: If someone is having an asthma attack, make them sit upright and support them in using their rescue inhaler or nebulizer. If symptoms linger for more than 20 minutes, and the second round of medication doesn’t bring relief, seek emergency medical attention.

3. Long-term asthma control medications

Long-term asthma control medications include the following:

  • Anti-inflammatories: These are used along with corticosteroids, an inhaler, and other anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling and mucus production in your airwaves, making it easier to breathe.
  • Long-acting bronchodilators: These are used in combination with anti-inflammatory asthma medications.
  • Anticholinergics: These medications will help stop your muscles from tightening around your airwaves.
  • Biologic therapy drugs: To treat people with severe Asthma, these new, injectable medications are used.
  • Bronchial thermoplasty: To treat severe Asthma, this treatment is utilized by placing an electrode to heat the airwaves inside the lungs. This helps to reduce the size of the muscle and prevent it from tightening.

 

Prevention

The following strategies are included to hamper asthma attacks:

  • Avoid Triggers: You should steer clear of chemicals, smells, or products that have caused breathing problems in the past.
  • Reduce exposure to allergens: Any allergens that you have identified which triggers your Asthma should be avoided.
  • Getting allergy shots: Depending on the type of Asthma, your doctor may recommend allergen immunotherapy. This is a type of treatment that may help alter your immune system. With the injection of routine shots, your body will become less sensitive to any triggers you encounter.
  • Taking preventive medication: Your doctor may prescribe medication for you, and it could also be used in addition to the one you use in case of an emergency.

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