What is asthma?

Asthma is a lung condition that affects the airways (bronchial tubes) of your lungs, causing the tissues lining the airways to swell and become narrow. This makes it difficult to breathe. The symptoms associated with asthma (coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath) are the result of this narrowing of the airways. The major factors contributing to asthma are inflammation of the airway lining, tightening of the muscles that wrap around the airways (bronchoconstriction), or both.

Inflammation of the airways may also be accompanied by an increase in mucous production, which also worsens the blockage of the airways. Inflammation makes the airways highly sensitive to irritants in the air such as air pollution, cigarette smoke, or animal dander.

When the highly sensitive airways become too narrow, air cannot flow easily in and out of the lungs, making breathing difficult. This leads to typical asthma symptoms, such as wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing, and chest tightness. When these symptoms become more common, it is known as an asthma attack or asthma exacerbation.

Asthma is a variable disease, which means symptoms can flare up from time to time. This means you might go for weeks or even months without experiencing any symptoms.

The best way to free yourself from asthma symptoms is to keep your asthma well controlled. Control means that your airways are not as sensitive to the allergens or irritants that can trigger an asthma attack. When your asthma is well controlled, you can lead a full, active, and healthy life with few, if any, symptoms and no days lost from work or school.

To get your asthma under control, you need the right tools. One of these essential tools is an asthma action plan. If you don't already have one, ask your doctor. It should include: how to recognize when your asthma is getting better or worse, how much you can change the amount of medication you take, and when you should adjust the amount of medication you take. Having an asthma action plan can help you be free from asthma symptoms.

Another important step in controlling your asthma is to learn about your condition. Be sure you understand how asthma affects your body, what triggers your asthma, how to tell if your asthma is getting worse, and how to use your asthma medication. If you have any questions about your asthma, speak to your doctor.

Asthma symptoms can range in severity from mild to very severe. Symptoms can also fluctuate in frequency, vary from person to person, and change from one attack to another. Symptoms may also occur more frequently at night or in the early morning.

Common symptoms of asthma include:

  • chest pain
  • chest tightness
  • coughing
  • difficulty breathing
  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Learn-About-Asthma

Do you know your asthma triggers?

There are several factors that can trigger asthma symptoms. These factors are known as asthma triggers. Everybody has their own set of triggers.

Common asthma triggers include:

  • allergens (substances that trigger allergies by causing an immune response):
    • mould
    • pollen
    • animal dander
    • cockroaches
    • dust mites
  • irritants (substances that irritate the airways):
    • smoking
    • secondhand smoke
    • strong odours, such as paint fumes
    • cold air
    • air pollution
    • humidity
  • food additives (e.g., sulphites)
  • viral infections
  • physical activity
  • stress
  • gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • certain medications (e.g., beta-blockers, ASA (Aspirin®), and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs))

Asthma triggers irritate your airways and cause them to become narrow and inflamed, which makes it difficult to breathe. You can control asthma symptoms and reduce your need for medication by avoiding exposure to common asthma triggers.

Talk to your doctor about ways to identify and avoid your personal asthma triggers.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Learn-About-Asthma

Diagnosing asthma

Diagnosing asthma can be difficult, since the symptoms are often similar to those of other respiratory conditions or heart disease. A diagnosis is usually based on a description of your symptoms, a complete medical history, a physical examination, and some laboratory tests. Diagnostic tests may include pulmonary (lung) function tests (PFTs), blood tests, chest X-rays, and allergy tests.

PFTs (pulmonary function tests) are a group of tests that are used to measure the function of the lungs. The most common PFT is a spirometry test, which uses a device called a spirometer to measure the amount and rate of air passing in and out of your airways. Another test that measures lung function is peak flow examination. This test uses a peak flow meter to measure the rate at which you breathe out air. Peak flow meters can be used at home to monitor your asthma.

Chest X-rays can be used to rule out other conditions.

Blood tests can detect elevated white blood cells, which indicate an infection. Blood tests known as arterial blood gases (ABG) can be used to measure your oxygen levels. If your doctor suspects your asthma is being triggered by allergens, blood tests can measure antibodies (IgE antibodies) to specific allergens.

Allergy skin tests may be performed along with antibody blood tests if your doctor believes your asthma symptoms are brought on by an allergen.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Learn-About-Asthma

Are you at risk of asthma?

Your risk of asthma does increase with the number of risk factors you have, and asthma may develop even if you don't currently have any of the risk factors.

The following may increase your risk of asthma:

  • family history
  • allergies
  • low birth weight
  • obesity
  • multiple respiratory infections during childhood
  • exposure to secondhand smoke (even during fetal development)
  • age - although asthma can develop at any age, it is more common in childhood
  • frequent exposure to potential allergens or irritants - these can include dust mites, secondhand smoke, pet dander, and workplace irritants or chemicals (e.g., toluene)
  • gender - during childhood, boys develop asthma more frequently than girls; however, this rate of occurrence changes after puberty so that more adult women than men develop asthma

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Learn-About-Asthma