Asthma is a serious health condition that affects the lungs and cause shortness of breath. It is a non-contagious disease that affect all age groups and it is caused as a result of genetic constitution and environmental factors. Asthma has no cure, however it can be managed, controlled and prevented with medications and various safety measures. The purpose of this article is to enlighten people about the meaning of asthma, the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and preventions.
What is Asthma?
Asthma is the inflammation of the airways of the lungs that is accompanied with difficulty in breathing, chest pain, heavy cough, and wheezing. Asthmatic attack is initiated when the lining of the airways narrows and the muscles around them contracts then mucus occupies the space and reduces the amount of air that pass through them. Most of this attack are due to environmental conditions such as air pollution, smoking , exposure to allergens and so on.
Causes of Asthma Disease
Asthma inflames and narrows airways of the lungs making breathing extremely difficult and can hinder daily activities due to the complications they bring up during attacks. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 339 million people fell sick from asthma globally and 417,918 people have been recorded to die from the disease in 2016.
Asthma is a non-communicable disease i.e, it cannot be spread by coming in contact with people that have the disease however, it is basically caused by environmental factors such as air pollution, exposure to harmful chemicals released into the air, smoking, insufficient air supply due to traffic congestion, long term inhaling of illicit drugs such as cocaine, exposure to allergens and indoor pollution
Asthma can also be caused as a result of genetics inheritance; asthma that emanates before the age of 10 are considered to be genetic in nature while those that comes after the age of 10 is as a result of environmental conditions.
Medications that are used to treat inflammations and pains such as aspirin and those that are used to treat high blood pressure such as propanol have also be known to cause the disease. People that had viral respiratory infections during their childhood are at higher risk of developing asthma.
These are conditions that contribute to asthma exacerbation or attacks. The following are the conditions that can trigger asthma attacks:
- Air pollution
- Exposure to smoking of cigarette
- Inhaling illicit drugs such as cocaine
- Exposure to harmful chemicals release into the air
- Cold air
- High intensity exercise
- Insufficient air supply due to traffic congestion
- High concentration of ozone in the air
- Exposure to allergens
- Emotional trauma such as anger and fear
Symptoms of Asthma
Asthma is makes breathing extremely difficult and the symptoms becomes more severe at night, early in the morning, during vigorous exercise and exposure to polluted the airs. However, the symptoms of asthma varies from person to person and also depends on the severity of the attack. The following are the major symptoms of asthmatic attack;
- Difficulty in breathing
- Chest pain
- Difficulty in talking
When to See a Doctor
Contact your doctor if you notice the following signs;
- Rapid shortness of breath
- Frequent coughing especially at night
- Insomnia or difficulty in sleeping
- Allergic reactions to the environment such as nasal congestion, cough, sneezing and sore throat
- wheezing after little exercise
These are the early symptoms of the asthma and it is advisable to see a doctor if you notice any of these signs so that the disease can be managed with high-quality medications. Chronic asthma attack can be life threatening and interfere with daily activities if not given immediate treatment at early stage.
After you have been diagnosed to be an asthmatic patient, it is also important and save to contact your doctor for the following reasons;
- Monitoring of the health condition after diagnosis
- Adjustment of treatment based on severity of asthma
- Description of medications from time to time in the course of treatment
Diagnosis of Asthma
The following are the test that are carried out to detect asthma in the clinic.
- Medical History Analysis: In this type of test, your doctor will ask you series of questions about your health status, the signs and symptoms you are experiencing, allergic reaction you possess towards substances, your exposure to pollutants, medical history of your family and the medication you are taking.
- Lung function test: This test is used to measure the efficacy of breathing. It is usually done by inhaling a drug known as bronchodilator which clears the airways to the lungs, if breath improves after inhaling the bronchodilator then you are already an asthmatic patient and early-stage treatment is advised so as to prevent further worsening of the disease.
- Spirometry: This test is used to examine how much air you breath in and blow out and also how fast you do this. Spirometry checks the level of obstruction in your airways. It is done by blowing air into a mouthpiece connected to a device called spirometer.
- Peak Flow: A device called peak flow metre is used for the purpose of this test and it is used to measure the amount of air that moves out of the lungs. The ability of the lungs to expel air is the primary function of this test, therefore the peak flow test is useful to monitor changes while taking asthma medications.
Other test that are used to detect asthma include chest X-ray and Sinuses.
Treatment of Asthma
The proper use of high-quality asthma medication is an effective way to treat asthma. Asthmatic patients are usually required to use two types of medicines which are;
- Quick relief medicines: these medications are taken at the beginning of symptoms of asthma so as to initiate immediate relief and they include anticholinergics and short-acting beta2-agonists.
- Long-term control medicines: these kinds of medications are taken everyday to prevent asthma symptoms and exacerbation, they include Inhaled corticosteroids, Cromolyn sodium, Methyxathines, Oral corticosteroids and Immunomodulators.
Prevention of Asthma Attack
Identifying allergies to a particular substance is one of the best ways to control and prevent asthma exacerbation or attack, the following are safety measures for preventing asthmatic attack;
- Avoid a polluted environment
- Stay away from smoking
- Avoiding inhaling hard drugs such as cocaine
- High intensity exercise should be discouraged
- Proper taking of medications as prescribed by doctors should be ensured
- Maintenance of healthy weight
- Monitoring of breath.