What Is Asthma?
Bronchial asthma is an inflammatory process in the airways, often accompanied by coughing, shortness of breath and choking. People of all ages suffer from bronchial asthma, but most of them are children.
Types of asthma
Bronchial asthma is the most common type of asthma and has several subspecies:
- Stress-induced asthma. Signs of the disease appear during intense physical activity. The patient has difficulty breathing, severe cough. The maximum airway is narrowed 5–20 minutes after the start of certain exercises. Treatment of such a condition boils down to the fact that the patient will need to use inhalers to control such attacks;
- Cough asthma. The main symptom of the disease is a strong cough that lasts for a long time. Cough asthma is very difficult to diagnose and difficult to treat. Most often, exercise and respiratory infections can provoke the progression of the pathology. If the patient has repeatedly developed coughing fits, then it is necessary to immediately consult a doctor for a diagnosis. A test should be passed that will help determine the presence of an ailment – a test of lung functions;
- Occupational asthma. The causative agents of this type of asthma are located directly at the human workplace. Most often, a person notes that an exacerbation of the disease develops on weekdays, and on weekends the symptoms decrease. The main symptoms: cough, runny nose, watery eyes. Such asthma is observed in people of the following professions: hairdresser, farmer, carpenter, artist;
- Nocturnal asthma. If this disease develops, the symptoms appear more intensely at night, during sleep. The main symptoms are: severe cough; labored breathing; wheezing. It is worth noting that according to statistics, a greater number of deaths due to asthma occurred at night. This is due to many factors: bronchial asthma; decreased lung performance during sleep; horizontal position of the body; violation of the circadian rhythm and so on;
- Aspirin asthma. A variant of asthma in which one of the factors contributing to the narrowing of the bronchi are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including acetylsalicylic acid. It consists of a triad of symptoms: polypous rhinosinusitis, asthma attacks and intolerance to NSAIDs.
Signs and symptoms of bronchial asthma
The first symptoms of bronchial asthma include:
- Coughing. Difficult and dry, when a person seems to be unable to cough up. When the attack ends, a small amount of moisture is likely to appear in the form of mucus;
- Frequent breathing. The attacks can often be accompanied by shortness of breath. When it is difficult for the patient to inhale air, and it is even more difficult to exhale;
- Wheezing. Attacks of bronchial asthma are accompanied by wheezing that can be heard even from a distance;
- Attack of suffocation. Choking or shortness of breath can happen very suddenly – both at night during sleep and during the day with any physical activity – when a person breathes dust, smoke, or polluted air.
The more severe the stage of the disease, the more severe its symptoms, for example, heart palpitations (up to 125-135 beats per minute, when 90 beats per minute are considered the norm for asthmatics) or pronounced dizziness (a sign of lack of oxygen in bronchial asthma).
Asthma affects about 10-12% of children and adolescents, as well as about 8% of the adult population. However, the results of a large-scale study of childhood asthma show that 20% of them suffer or have had asthma before the age of 10. In the past 40 years, there has been an increase in the incidence.
The UK having the highest prevalence of asthma, where over 32% of adolescents aged 13-14 suffer from it.
In order to diagnose bronchial asthma, you first need to carefully examine your family for the presence of this disease.
Then contact a specialist who will check the patient for rashes on the skin, which indicate the patient’s sensitivity to various allergens and listen to the lungs for wheezing. After that, special tests and sampling of blood and sputum tests can be done.
The diagnostic program may include:
- spirometry – a test for lung function;
- peak flowmetry – studies to determine the airflow rate;
- chest x-ray;
- tests to identify allergies – to determine the cause of the disease;
- test to determine the concentration of air oxide – this allows diagnosing inflammation of the upper respiratory tract.
Who gets asthma?
Asthma can be inherited and can be accompanied by eczema and allergies. Non-hereditary asthma can occur in people with a predisposition to the disease as a complication of a respiratory tract infection due to air pollution and tobacco smoke.
The goal of asthma care is to enable the patient to live with minimal disabilities, less frequent attacks, and to keep the lungs functioning properly.
The preferred form of treatment is the inhalation of asthma medication. The course of treatment should be set individually with regard to the dosage and frequency of inhalation.
- Short-acting medications for seizures. Medicines designed to prevent an attack should be used for airway obstruction and shortness of breath and for physical activity that can lead to such problems. The duration of action of medicines is 3 – 4 hours;
- Long-acting medications designed to prevent an attack. The medications protect against asthma attacks and last up to 12 hours;
- Preventive medicines. Cortisone inhalation is carried out daily, morning and evening. Cortisone taken this way does not produce the unwanted side effects we associate with cortisone pills;
- Preventive medicines. Leukotriene antagonists are available only in pill form, which should be taken once a day. It can also be beneficial for rhinitis.
Complex preparations are a mixture of prophylactic and anti-seizure medications placed in an inhaler.
For those with severe asthma, it may be necessary to take cortisone tablets. The medicine is used during courses of treatment or, in rare cases, as a preventive treatment for particularly severe forms of asthma. This treatment has a strong effect on airway inflammation. Most often, a two-week course of treatment is required.
Based on the results of the diagnosis, the doctor will select a treatment in accordance with the severity of your symptoms. This disease is not completely cured. But if you follow the correct lifestyle and doctor’s recommendations, you can prolong the period of remission and minimize the frequency of attacks.