What is asthma?
Asthma is a common long-term condition that affects your lung airways – the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. You could say that someone with asthma has ‘sensitive’ airways that are inflamed when they come into contact with any substance which their body rejects, like allergens.
Asthma has a tendency to run in families, especially if there’s a history of allergies and smoking.
Is asthma a serious condition?
About 300 million people suffer from asthma worldwide and the numbers are growing with an estimate of 100 million more case by the year 2025.
About 11% of the cases are due to occupational hazards like fumes, dust and gases.
Sadly, Research shows that three people die every day because of asthma attacks and that two thirds of asthma deaths are avoidable. But if you get the right treatment – and take it correctly – can manage symptoms and get on with what you want to do in life.
How does asthma affect the airways?
If you have asthma and comes into contact with something that irritates their sensitive airways (an asthma trigger), it causes your body to react as follows,
- narrowing of the airway due to contraction of the muscles around the airway
- The lining of the airway becomes inflamed and starts to swell
- Production of sticky mucous and phlegm within the airway, causing it to narrow further and as a result of the subsequent irritation, normal breathing will get affected, leading to asthma symptoms, such as chest tightness, wheezing, or coughing.
Clinical features of Asthma
The principal symptoms of asthma are wheezing attacks, shortness of breath, chest tightness and cough (may be the only symptom)
Symptoms tend to be intermittent, worse at night and early morning and provoke by triggers of asthma.
What causes asthma symptoms?
If you have asthma, your airways are sensitive and inflamed and are set to react to triggers that get the symptoms going.
In allergic asthma, your symptoms arise when you come into contact with a something that triggers an allergic reaction. These are known as allergens. Common allergens include pollen, pets and house dust mites.
If you are having non-allergic asthma, your symptoms are not caused by an allergen but an irritant you breathe in or any other factor. Cigarette smoke and car exhaust fumes are considered common irritants whereas factors exercise, cold weather, colds and flu can trigger asthma symptoms.
It is possible that your symptoms are caused by allergic and non-allergic triggers, which means you could be having both allergic and non-allergic asthma.
What else can make asthma symptoms more likely?
Cough is a key feature, often worsening at night particularly if the condition is undiagnosed or not managed well. Because the natural process which is used by your body in order to control inflammation is inactive during sleep.
Some are more likely to experience symptoms at specific periods in life, such as childhood, menopause and pregnancy. It is said that changing hormone levels can affect asthma symptoms. It is not known exactly why this happens.
Smoking or being around other people smoking can trigger symptoms. This is because the chemicals in tobacco smoke irritate the airways and the lungs.
There is evidence suggesting that being overweight can cause symptom as well.
Can Asthma be cured?
Currently there is no cure for asthma. The good news, though, is that there are lots of safe and effective treatments available to manage the symptoms. You just need to work with your Doctor to find the ones that work well for you, and get into good habits so you take them exactly as prescribed, so you can get the benefits. Symptoms can get worse if you’re not managing your asthma well and this can lead to a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.
Can you lead a normal life despite having asthma?
Take your preventer medicine as instructed by your doctor.
Use a written action plan to help you identify when you need extra help and what affects your asthma. Discuss with your Doctor about these get the help you need.
See your doctor regularly and get your asthma reviewed, so you and your doctor can talk about your asthma in general and your triggers. Some people might just become symptom-free when the subsequent triggers are avoided.
But if you are diagnosed with severe asthma, you might need more complex treatments where the usual drug might not be enough for you. However, in both scenarios, your doctor will choose what the best option for you to go for depending on the type of attacks you own.
Why getting a diagnosis is so important?
Asthma symptoms would differ from one person to person and be different one day to the next. Your doctor might run some tests on you as there are different tests for different types of asthma.
Even if you do have asthma, you should not worry about it affecting our quality of life because there so many safe and effective treatment options available to suit your need. However, it is up to you to make sure you take your medication as prescribed by your doctor. Don’t let asthma stop you from doing anything you want to do in life.