Asthma

Asthma is also called a chronic respiratory disease by doctors. It causes many breathing difficulties such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.

Everything You Need to Know About Asthma

To understand the implications of the disease better, watch this short clip detailing how humans respire. This will provide an insight into how asthma works.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic condition, which alters the airways (bronchial tubes). The bronchial tubes function by permitting the entry and exit of air into the lungs. This syndrome is characterized by inflammation in airways, causing difficulty in breathing.

Asthma Symptoms

The symptoms of asthma are generally mild. However, it can quickly become severe to life-threatening if neglected. The most common symptoms of an asthma attack are:

    • Wheezing
    • Pressure on the chest/ tightness
    • Rapid breathing
    • Breathing problems
    • Persistent coughing
    • Difficulty in talking
    • Blue fingernails or lips
    • Sweaty, pale face

Asthma Causes

There are several factors responsible for triggering asthma attacks and they vary from person to person. However, one aspect is consistent: The airways become narrow and inflamed when exposed to a trigger. It also fills with mucus, consequently making it harder for the affected individual to breathe.

The causes of asthma are still unknown, however, it is known to be triggered by environmental factors. Known triggers of asthma attacks are:

  • Respiratory infections caused by the common cold
  • Dust and dust mites
  • Pet dander
  • Pollution
  • Vehicular and industrial exhaust
  • Medication
  • Pollen
  • Smoking
  • Sinusitis
  • Allergies

Smoking during pregnancy and after delivery greatly increases the risk of asthma for the infant.  Asthma can also be hereditary.

Diagnosis of Asthma

It is easy to diagnose a patient with asthma. There are several tests available to detect the symptoms as asthma triggers. The common tests are spirometry, exhaled nitric oxide and challenge tests.

Spirometry is a type of lung function test that measures how hard a person can blow air out of their lungs. It can determine the level of obstruction in the airway. The test is performed using a machine called a spirometer.

Exhaled nitric oxide is a test that is performed by breathing into a hand-held machine. It then calculates the amount of nitric oxide present in the exhalation. Nitric oxide is produced inside the lungs and is an indicator of inflammation.

Challenge tests are tests which are performed if the other tests are not able to establish a diagnosis of asthma. Challenge tests are of two types – mannitol and methacholine. These agents, when inhaled, causes the airways to narrow only if asthma is present. The test involves the inhalation of these agents in the forms of aerosols or dry powders. If the lung function drops during the challenge, the individual is positive for asthma.

Other diagnostic procedures include:

  • Chest X-rays
  • Other lung function tests.
  • Allergy tests are recommended to detect the exact triggers.
  • General physical examinations for the functioning of the respiratory system.

Types of Asthma

There are many types of asthma. Listed below are a few of the most common types:

  • Allergic Asthma
  • Bronchial asthma
  • Nocturnal Asthma
  • Occupational Asthma
  • Exercise-Induced Asthma
  • Steroid-Resistant Asthma

Asthma Treatment

Asthma is a long-term syndrome which has no permanent cure with today’s medical technologies. However, the condition can be controlled by avoiding things that worsen asthma attacks.

Educating oneself about the possible triggers and enforcing precautions may help avoid asthma attacks. There are few treatments available, which depends on the severity of the symptoms. Children are treated with different types of medicine prescribed by physicians. Long-term treatment is available to control asthma attacks and for treating inflammation of airways. Other medicines include quick-relief inhalers, nebulizer, corticosteroids and other pills to treat breathing problems, coughing and wheezing.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is Asthma?

Asthma is a condition which alters the airways. The bronchial tubes function by permitting the entry and exit of air into the lungs. This syndrome is characterized by inflammation in airways, causing difficulty in breathing.

2. What are the symptoms of asthma?

The most common symptoms of an asthma attack are:

  • Wheezing
  • Pressure on the chest/ tightness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Breathing problems
  • Persistent coughing
  • Difficulty in talking
  • Blue fingernails or lips
  • Sweaty, pale face

3. How is Asthma Caused?

The causes of asthma are still unknown, however, it is known to be triggered by environmental factors. Known triggers of asthma attacks are:

  • Common cold
  • Dust and dust mites
  • Pet dander
  • Pollution
  • Vehicular and industrial exhaust
  • Medication
  • Pollen
  • Smoking
  • Sinusitis
  • Allergies

4. How is asthma diagnosed?

Asthma can be diagnosed by two tests:

  • Spirometry & Exhaled nitric oxide
  • Challenge tests

5. What are the types of Asthma?

The various types of asthma are as follows:

  • Allergic Asthma
  • Bronchial asthma
  • Nocturnal Asthma
  • Occupational Asthma
  • Exercise-Induced Asthma
  • Steroid-Resistant Asthma

To learn more about Asthma or other chronic diseases, visit BYJU’S.

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