Asthma is a chronic health condition that is characterized by the inflammation of the airways of the lungs. This inflammation or obstruction results when the airways overreact to certain factors making it difficult to breathe. The inflammation can also result in constriction and irritability of airways, mucus production and swelling. This makes people suffering from this condition to have very sensitive airways.
Since people suffering from asthma have sensitive airways, when they are exposed to certain triggers such as medicines or things that they are allergic to, their sensitive airways become narrow reducing the airflow. Examples of such triggers include allergens which can consist of:
- Pollen usually from grasses, trees or even weeds
- Animal or bird allergens
- Occupational allergens e.g sawdust, fumes or gases
Other triggers can include medicines, exercise, heartburn [reflux], viral respiratory infections such as colds and flu, air pollution. When people suffering from asthma conditions are exposed to some of these triggers, it often results in noticeable asthma symptoms or asthma attacks which include wheezing[ whistling sound in the chest], breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing.
How Do People Get Asthma?
Some people happen to have asthma either because it runs in the family or have a family history of allergies. However some people have what we call allergic asthma which is triggered when exposed to various factors.
That’s not all, some people develop asthma just through exercising in this case this kind of asthma is referred to as Exercise induced asthma [EIA] while some people get asthma from their places of work [occupational asthma] where due to prolonged exposure to certain factors such as fumes, gases or even dust end up developing asthma. In some cases however, asthma begins during infancy or childhood.
How Can Doctors Diagnose Asthma?
Doctors can use various ways to diagnose asthma. Most doctors ask about the symptoms and often ask patients about their symptoms. In most cases a physical exam is conducted to determine asthma. However to help distinguish asthma from other lung disorders, doctors rely on a combination of medical history of the patient, physical examination and laboratory tests.
Some of the tests include breathing tests including peak flow tests and spirometry. In peak flow test, a peak flow meter is often used to measure the speed of air flow out of the lungs while spirometry is used to measure how much air is blown out with each breath and how much it is blown in one second. Other tests doctors use include chest X-rays, blood tests and allergen tests.
Asthma has no cure, however there are treatments used to manage asthma. Medicines for asthma can be divided into either relievers or preventers. Relievers help in opening up the airways so breathing becomes easier while preventers work by reducing the incidences and the severity of asthma episodes.
In some cases, some medicines combine both preventers and relievers depending on the severity of the asthmatic condition. Doctors often give asthma medicines through an inhaler device however some are dispensed in tablet form.
In conclusion, asthma is a recurring condition and learning to control it can help improve the quality of life. This can be done by visiting the doctor regularly, quitting smoking and avoiding asthma triggers if possible.
Sourced from AAAAI