What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that is characterized by spasms in the airways. Asthma causes heightened sensitivity of the airways to a number of agents and allergens, eventually leading to difficulty in breathing among other symptoms (an asthma attack).
Asthma can affect people of all ages. In most documented cases, it usually starts in childhood and may continue all the way through adulthood. In the United States alone, there are more than 25 million documented cases of asthma. Out of these cases, about 7 million are children.
What Is An Asthma Attack?
This is the abrupt worsening of asthma symptoms in a patient. During an asthma attack, the linings of the airways become swollen and abnormally thick mucus is created. An asthma attack may also cause the patient to have trouble when performing his or her daily activities.
The following are the common signs of an asthma attack.
- Increased wheezing when inhaling and exhaling
- Constant coughing
- High breathing rate
- Tightness in the chest
- Retraction – tensed chest and neck muscles
- Difficulty when talking
- Panic or a feeling of anxiety
- A pale and sweaty face
- Blue fingernails and/or lips
- In severe cases, symptoms worsen even when relief medication is administered
Mild or less severe asthma attacks are more common than severe attacks and many patients can go for long without experiencing attacks or any symptoms that cause concern. In mild asthma attacks, the patient experiences some relief within a short time since the airways usually open up just a few minutes or a few hours after treatment.
Mild attacks are usually not a cause for great concern. Severe asthma attacks on the other hand are less common. They last longer than just a few hours, and call for immediate medical intervention.
Asthma is an inflammatory disease of the airways and can be triggered by a number of different things.
Common asthma triggers include:
- Pollen, dust mites, mold, feathers, animal dander and some foods
- Smoke, dirt, gases and odor
- Colds, flu or other illnesses
- Cold, windy weather or sudden weather changes
When do asthma attacks occur?
Asthma attacks occur when the patient has been exposed to certain allergens or triggers that cause the airways to swell and produce abnormally thick mucus. Some of the agents and factors that have been known to trigger asthma attacks include:
- Infection by respiratory viruses
- Exposure to airborne allergens and Pollutants such as pollen, ozone, mold, cigarette smoke and animal dander
- Strenuous exercise
It is also important to note that the chances of a patient experiencing an asthma attack are likely to be higher when the weather is cold and dry.
What are the different types of asthma?
Asthma manifests or presents itself in many different ways. For example, there is asthma that manifests itself as a chronic cough, there is a type that is triggered by various factors in the patient’s workplace, and there is one that is triggered by allergic reactions, among others. Most variants are different in many ways from the severe or life threatening asthma – causes serious respiratory problems and in some severe cases, death.
- Cough-Variant Asthma
This variant is characterized by a dry cough. It is usually undertreated because it usually goes undiagnosed most of the time. It is therefore advisable to visit a doctor in case of a persistent cough.
- Occupational Asthma
Exposure to a number of chemicals or fumes in the workplace may induce or worsen asthma. Control and management of asthma triggers in the workplace is important for any asthma patients.
- Allergic Asthma
Allergic reactions have been known to worsen the symptoms of asthma. A patient suffering from allergic asthma can manage the condition by avoiding allergens such as the ones mentioned earlier.
- Exercise Induced Asthma
Vigorous exercise can worsen asthma symptoms. However, with proper monitoring and treatment, patients suffering from exercise-induced asthma can take part in many physical activities.
- Nighttime Asthma
It is not uncommon for asthma to worsen during the night. In nighttime asthma, the inflammation in the airways becomes worse at night. This can however be managed by treating and eliminating the fundamental causes.
Is Asthma Curable?
Although asthma is a disease that can be significantly controlled, it has no known cure. The disease never goes away completely even with medication. This could probably be because there are different variants of the condition and no single cure can suit them all effectively.
The treatments available today give most asthma patience enough resources to manage the condition to a point where they can go about their daily lives with little to no worry.
Your Doctor’s Role Managing your Asthma
Few people know much about managing asthma. This is mainly because, just like most other chronic illnesses, it can tend to be a bit overwhelming. The nature of the disease therefore makes the role played by physicians a very significant one.
Even with the advancements made, there are cases of asthma that continue to go undiagnosed. Once a patient has been diagnosed with asthma, your physician should recommend the best medicines currently available to prevent and treat the disease. Your physician should also ensure that he or she involves you in finding and eliminating the triggers that may induce attacks.
Prescribing medication and identifying allergens and triggers is a process for which only the physician is qualified. The physician will also advise the patient on the best action plan to take whenever faced by an attack.
Your Role in Asthma Management
Although managing asthma is in a major part the responsibility of the patient, this may not always be possible especial when the patient is a child. In such a situation, a guardian or caregiver will be required to ensure that the patient’s environment is free of any allergens or triggers and that all the recommend medications are administered appropriately.
In adult asthma patients, the patient will need to keep track of the medicines and any signs that may indicate that he or she is about to experience an attack. This is very important since during severe attacks the patient may be of little or no use to themselves.
Close monitoring of the disease will help reduce attacks and keep the condition manageable. When one detects any signs of an impending attack, he or she should immediately activate the plan of action recommended by the physician in order to ensure that they are not subjected to any life threatening situations. Mild asthma attacks can be best managed with the help of a second or even third person.
Baz Allergy Asthma and Sinus Center has been treating patients in the California central valley for over 30 years. Our board certified physicians are highly trained asthma doctors who can help design the best asthma management plan for you.
To learn more contact the office nearest you to schedule a consultation with an asthma specialist.
The best medication for an asthma patient depends on a number of factors such as the patient’s age, the triggers, the symptoms, and the methods that work best to manage it. Asthma medication can be classified as quick relief and long-term management medications.
Quick Relief medications:
These are administered as needed to offer quick relief during attacks. They work by opening swollen airways in order to ease breathing. In cases where an attack has been triggered by an allergic reaction, quick relief medicines may be administered together with allergy medication.
The most common types of quick relief medications include:
These are usually administered with nebulizers and portable inhalers so that the patient inhales the medicine through a mouthpiece or a facemask.
Ipratropium works similarly to other short-acting bronchodilators. It acts fast to relax the patient’s airways and improve breathing.
Intravenous And Oral Corticosteroids
As the names suggest, these medications are administered orally or intravenously to offer quick relief for symptoms.
A number of quick relief medications can cause serious side effects if used long-term, in case a patient has any doubts or questions he or she should seek the input of a qualified physician.
Long Term Control or Preventive Medication:
These medications are normally administered daily. Preventive medications form a crucial part of asthma treatment and management. They work to reduce inflammation on a daily basis in order to reduce the patient’s chances of an attack.
The following are the common types of preventive medications.
- Inhaled long acting bronchodilators
- Theophylline; this is a pill that is administered daily. It keeps the airways open by calming the muscles around them.
- Inhaled corticosteroids
- A combination of inhalers
- Leukotriene inhibitors modifiers; these help to relieve the symptoms for about 24 hours