What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic lung disease wherein a person’s bronchial tubes (the tubes that carry air in and out of lungs) gets restricted due to inflammation. Asthma is also characterized by the excessive production of mucus (secretions inside the bronchial tube), making it difficult to breathe, and in turn, triggering - coughing, wheezing, chest pressure or pain, and shortness of breath. Asthma can be a minor problem in some but, can be fatal to those whose symptoms are aggravated.
While mild asthma attacks are common, it is vital to keep a tab and get treatment on time to reduce risks of more episodes.
It affects people of all ages. Asthma among children below five is also common. Out of 300 million asthma patients worldwide, ten percent of those are living in India.

Symptoms of Asthma

The symptoms of Asthma can be varying from person to person. For some, it can be persistent, and for some, it can be less persistent.
The most common signs are:

  • Pain in the chest 
  • A sudden gasp of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Difficult to sleep.
  • A cough
  • Running nose, sinus infections, reflux disease, psychological stress, and sleep apnoea
  • Flu attack.

It can happen in the following situations:

  • While exercising/ climbing steps. (Also known as exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), or exercise-induced asthma (EIA)
  • When there are certain elements of allergens in the air
  • Occupational Asthma (which is triggered by chemical fumes, gases or dust).

In case you face any of these symptoms, you should consult your pulmonologist.

Risk Factors of Asthma

Several risk factors can put you at risk of developing Asthma such as:

  • A family history of Asthma
  • Having other allergic conditions
  • Exposure to second-hand smoke
  • Being obese
  • Being a smoker
  • Contact with pesticides, hair dye, and chemicals
  • Exposure to exhaust fumes
  • Cold air
  • Other types of pollution.
Diagnosis of asthma

After a preliminary physical examination, your doctor may recommend these tests:

  • Spirometry (to check the narrowing of your bronchial tubes. It measures the quantity of air you can breathe in and breathe out. It also measures how fast you can blow air out.)
  • Peak flow (to measure how hard you can exhale)
  • Chest X-Ray
  • EKG (electrocardiogram)
  • CT scan
  • Methacholine challenge
  • Nitric oxide test
  • Bronchoprovocation
  • Allergy testing
  • Sputum eosinophil count
  • Testing for exercise and cold-induced Asthma.
Treatment of Asthma

Treatment for Asthma is given either on a short-term and a long terms basis. And it depends on the severity of the condition- intermittent, mild, moderate, or severe.
Short term (quick-relief) medication:

  • Short-acting beta agonists – quick-relief bronchodilators
  • Oral and intravenous corticosteroids
  • Allergy shots (if it is an allergy-induced attack)

Long-term medication:

  • Inhaling corticosteroids
  • Leukotriene modifiers
  • Long-acting beta-agonists
  • Combination inhalers.

Asthma can be very difficult to manage, and very vital to handle timely. In some cases, people are also known to have collapsed in Asthmatic conditions – making this a potentially fatal condition.

 

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