Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that mainly affects the airways in the lungs. It causes inflammation, swelling, and narrowing of the airways, making it difficult to breathe. Asthma can cause wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath, and these symptoms can range from mild to severe.
Asthma is a common condition, and it affects people of all ages. While it cannot be cured, it can be managed effectively with proper treatment and self-care. Treatment options may include medications, such as inhalers and oral medications, and lifestyle changes, such as avoiding triggers and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. There are multiple Clinical Research Organizations near you that may be able to help countless others suffering from this condition.
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a long-term lung disease. It causes the airways to become inflamed and narrow making breathing difficult and can make certain physical activities difficult. This causes symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. The severity of these symptoms varies between individuals. In most cases, asthma can be well controlled, though some people may have more persistent issues. Rarely, it is referred to as “bronchial asthma”.
What does an Asthma attack feel like?
The muscles surrounding the airways relax when we breathe normally, allowing air to move smoothly and silently. Three things that may occur during an asthma attack include:
- Bronchospasm: When bronchospasm occurs, the muscles that surround the airways tighten. The airways become narrow when they constrict. Constrictions in the airways prevent air from moving freely.
- Inflammation: The lining of the airways swells due to inflammation. Less air enters or leaves the lungs when airways are swollen.
- Mucus production: As the attack continues, the body produces more mucus. It clogs airways with its thick mucus.
When airways are constricted, it presents itself as a wheeze, which is sound airways make when we exhale. An asthma attack may also be referred to as an exacerbation or flare-up. It is the phrase used when asthma is not under control.
Who can be affected by Asthma?
Asthma can affect anyone, irrespective of their age, gender, or race. However, certain factors may increase a person’s risk of developing asthma, including:
- Genetics: Asthma tends to run in families, so if one or both parents have asthma, the child is more likely to develop it too.
- Environmental factors: Exposure to air pollution, secondhand smoke, and allergens such as dust mites, pollen, and pet dander can increase the risk of developing asthma.
- Respiratory infections: Early respiratory infections in childhood can lead to the development of asthma.
- Obesity: Being overweight or obesity may increase one’s chances of developing asthma.
- Occupational exposure: Certain jobs may expose individuals to dust, fumes, or other irritants that can trigger asthma symptoms.
It is important to note that not everyone who is exposed to these risk factors will develop asthma, and not everyone with asthma will have the same triggers or symptoms.
What are the triggers to cause an Asthma attack?
Asthma attacks can be triggered by a variety of factors, and they can differ from person to person. Some common asthma triggers include:
- Allergens: This includes dust mites, pet dander, pollen, and mold
- Irritants: such as smoke, strong odors, air pollution, and chemicals
- Respiratory infections: such as the common cold, flu, and pneumonia can cause Asthma.
- Exercise: Physical activity can trigger asthma symptoms, particularly in cold or dry environments.
- Changes in weather: Changes in temperature or humidity can trigger asthma symptoms.
- Emotional stress: Strong emotions such as stress, anxiety, or excitement can trigger asthma symptoms.
- Medications: Certain medications, including aspirin and beta-blockers, can trigger asthma symptoms in some people.
- Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes during menstrual periods or pregnancy can sometimes trigger asthma symptoms.
What are the Symptoms of an Asthma attack?
Asthma symptoms and signs include:
- Breathing difficulty
- Tightness or pain in the chest
- Wheezing when exhaling is a common symptom of asthma in children.
- Sleeping difficulties caused by shortness of breath, coughing, or wheezing
- Coughing or wheezing attacks exacerbated by a respiratory infection, such as the common cold or the flu
How can we Diagnose Asthma?
There is no single test or exam that can determine whether or not you or your child has asthma. Instead, your doctor will use a number of criteria to determine whether the symptoms are caused by asthma. The following factors can help in the diagnosis of asthma:
- Medical history: There is an increased risk of any family member who suffers from a breathing disorder. Inform the doctor about this genetic link.
- Physical examination: The doctor will use a stethoscope to examine the breathing. A skin test may also be performed to look for signs of an allergic reaction, such as hives or eczema. Allergies increase your chances of developing asthma.
- Breathing tests: PFTs measure the amount of air that enters and exits the lungs. Spirometry, which is the most common test, involves blowing into a device that measures the speed of the air.
It can be beneficial for a person to keep a log of their symptoms and potential triggers in order to assist the doctor in making an accurate diagnosis. Information about potential irritants in the home, school, or workplace should be included.
How is an Asthma attack managed?
Prevention and long-term control are essential for preventing asthma attacks. Treatment typically involves learning to recognize the triggers, taking steps to avoid triggers, and tracking breathing to ensure that the medications are controlling symptoms. A healthcare provider may provide options that may help manage asthma and to control symptoms. These include:
- Use a quick-relief inhaler: Quick-relief inhalers contain bronchodilators that help to open up the airways and improve breathing. It’s important to use the inhaler as soon as possible when symptoms of an asthma attack begin to develop. Following the instructions provided by the doctor or pharmacist is a must.
- Sit upright: Sitting upright can help to ease breathing difficulties and reduce the feeling of chest tightness.
- Stay calm: Anxiety and stress may worsen asthma symptoms. Try to stay calm and focused on your breathing.
- Use a peak flow meter: A peak flow meter measures how fast you can blow air out of your lungs. Monitoring your peak flow can help you to identify the severity of your asthma attack and determine if your treatment is working.
- Seek medical attention: If your symptoms do not improve after using your inhaler, or if you experience severe difficulty breathing, seek medical attention immediately. Additional medications or hospitalization may be recommended by the doctor.
- Follow an asthma action plan: Work with your doctor to develop an asthma action plan that outlines the steps you should take to manage your asthma symptoms and prevent asthma attacks. Make sure to follow your plan and take your medications as prescribed.
Overall, the key to managing asthma attacks is to recognize the symptoms early and take action quickly. With proper treatment and self-care, most people with asthma can live healthy and active lives
Asthma is an inflammatory lung disease that makes breathing difficult. It can affect both adults and children in different ways and to varying degrees. A variety of medications are available to treat asthma. Bronchodilators are the most commonly used treatments, which can be used either short-term to treat an asthma attack or long-term to manage symptoms over time.
Changes in lifestyle may also help reduce asthma flare-ups. This can include changes to one’s diet, exercise, or stress management. Consultation with a doctor to determine the type of asthma and the best treatment and management options. Many asthma clinical trials are being conducted in Michigan to learn more about the condition’s mechanisms of action and the best possible treatments that might be able to ease its symptoms.