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Asthma

By eHealthIQ
Reviewed: April 05, 2013

Overview and Facts

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that affects more than 22 million people. It is a disease that causes the inside walls of your airways to become sore and swollen, which makes them sensitive to certain things in the environment. When the lungs become irritated because of something in the environment, they get less air because of the swollen airways and cause periods of wheezing, difficult breathing and coughing.
When these symptoms get more intense, an asthma attack is in progress. Severe asthma attacks may require emergency medical care. The more you know about asthma attack symptoms and warning signs, the more you can control your asthma.
Types of asthma:

Allergic asthma: Allergies and asthma typically go hand-in-hand because allergy symptoms can often trigger asthma symptoms. This is the most common type of asthma. 90% of kids with childhood asthma have allergies

Exercise-induced asthma: This asthma is triggered by exercise or physical exertion. Symptoms usually begin 10-20 minutes after the exercise has begun, or 5-10 minutes after it has stopped.

Cough Variant Asthma: The predominant symptom in this asthma is a dry, non-productive cough.

Signs and Symptoms

Asthma symptoms vary from person to person and they are experienced when the airways are inflamed. Common symptoms of asthma include:

  • Coughing, particularly at night
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Difficulty breathing

Types and severity of asthma symptoms vary from one person to another. Sometimes asthma symptoms are just irritating, but other times they may hinder your daily activity. Severe asthma attacks can be life threatening and require medical attention.
Certain warning signs can indicate the onset of an asthma attack. Asthma attack symptoms include:

  • The need to use a rescue inhaler
  • Decrease in lung function
  • Frequent coughing at night
  • Cold symptoms
  • Losing your breath easily

Causes and Diagnosis

It is unknown what the exact causes of asthma are. However, it is thought to be caused when a combination of factors collide. These asthma risk factors include:

  • Family history of asthma
  • Certain respiratory infections occurring in childhood
  • Exposure to some viral infections when the immune system is developing
  • Atopy, an inherited tendency to develop allergies

The cause of each individual’s asthma attacks may vary based on personal triggers in the environment. Common things that trigger asthma attack symptoms are:

  • Secondhand smoke
  • Dust mites
  • Pets
  • Outdoor air pollution
  • Strenuous physical exercise
  • Mold
  • Allegies
  • Cockroach allergens

Diagnosing asthma can sometimes be difficult because asthma symptoms you may be experiencing may not be present when you see the doctor. If there are no asthma symptoms present, your doctor will ask you several questions about your medical history and the symptoms you might be experiencing such as coughing, wheezing and tightness of chest.
Doctors can also perform a lung function test to diagnose asthma. A spirometry measures the largest amount of air you can breathe out after taking a deep breath.

Tests and Treatment Options

The goal of asthma remedies and asthma treatment is to control the disease, as there is no cure for asthma. You can learn to control your asthma symptoms and avoid asthma attacks by taking your medicine as directed by your doctor, as well as avoiding things that trigger asthma symptoms or an asthma attack.

Not everyone will receive the same asthma remedy. There are two types of asthma medicine, quick relief, which provides relief for asthma attack symptoms, and long-term control, which helps you have fewer and less severe asthma attacks, but they won’t help you with the immediate symptoms of your asthma attack.

Asthma medicines can be taken in pill form, though most are taken using an inhaler. An inhaler allows the asthma medicine to go directly to your lungs to provide asthma relief.

When you meet with your doctor, you will create an asthma action plan. An asthma action plan will help you and those close to you to know what to do in the event of a severe asthma attack. The asthma action plan will detail your daily asthma treatment such as what medicines to take and when to take them. It will also detail when to call the doctor or head to the emergency room. Keep a copy of your plan where someone could access it should the need arise.

Helpful Tips and Home Remedies

There isn’t a way to completely prevent asthma. But you can take certain steps to prevent asthma symptoms and control the disease as much as possible:

  • Eat a well-balanced diet – there is no asthma diet, but eating nutritiously is an important part of your overall asthma treatment plan
  • Asthma and smoking do not go well together – if you are a smoker, quitting is the best way to prevent asthma symptoms
  • Learn about your asthma and how to control it
  • Follow the asthma action plan you created with your doctor
  • Exercise by doing activities that involve short periods of exertion
  • Use medicines only your doctor directs
  • Identify and avoid things that you know make your asthma worse
  • Keep track of your asthma symptoms and level of control
  • Get regular checkups for your asthma.

References

  • http://www.webmd.com/asthma/default.htm
  • http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/asthma/DS00021
  • http://www.medicinenet.com/asthma/article.htm
  • http://asthma.about.com
  • http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/asthma

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