Asthma is a major non-communicable disease characterized by recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing, which vary in severity and frequency from person to person. Symptoms may occur several times in a day or week in affected individuals, and for some people become worse during physical activity or at night.
During an asthma attack, the lining of the bronchial tubes swell, causing the airways to narrow and reducing the flow of air into and out of the lungs. Recurrent asthma symptoms frequently cause sleeplessness, daytime fatigue, reduced activity levels, and school and work absenteeism. Asthma has a relatively low fatality rate compared to other chronic diseases.
It was estimated that more than 339 million people suffer from asthma. Asthma is the most common non-communicable disease among children. Most deaths occur in older adults.
Asthma is a public health problem not just for high-income countries; it occurs in all countries regardless of the level of development. Most asthma-related deaths occur in low- and lower-middle-income countries.
Asthma is under-diagnosed and under-treated. It creates substantial burden to individuals and families and often restricts individuals’ activities for a lifetime.
The strongest risk factors for developing asthma are a combination of genetic predisposition with environmental exposure to inhaled substances and particles that may provoke allergic reactions or irritate the airways, such as:
- Indoor allergens (for example, house dust mites in bedding, carpets and stuffed furniture, pollution and pet dander)
- Outdoor allergens (such as pollens and moulds)
- Tobacco smoke
- Chemical irritants in the workplace
- Air pollution.
Other triggers can include cold air, extreme emotional arousal such as anger or fear, and physical exercise. Even certain medications can trigger asthma: aspirin and other non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, and beta-blockers (which are used to treat high blood pressure, heart conditions, and migraine).
Urbanization has been associated with an increase in asthma prevalence. But the exact nature of this relationship is unclear.
How Can You Tell if You Have Asthma?
It can be hard to tell if someone has asthma, especially in children under age 5. Having a doctor check how well your lungs work and check for allergies can help you find out if you have asthma.
During a checkup, a doctor will ask if you cough a lot, especially at night. He or she will also ask whether your breathing problems are worse after physical activity or at certain times of year. The doctor will then ask about chest tightness, wheezing, and colds lasting more than 10 days. He or she will ask whether anyone in your family has or has had asthma, allergies, or other breathing problems. Finally, the doctor will ask questions about your home and whether you have missed school or work or have trouble doing certain things.
The doctor may also do a breathing test, called spirometry, to find out how well your lungs are working by testing how much air you can breathe out after taking a very deep breath before and after you use asthma medicine.
Reducing the asthma burden
Although asthma cannot be cured, appropriate management can control the disease and people enable to enjoy a good quality of life. Short-term medications are used to relieve symptoms. Medications such as inhaled corticosteroids are needed to control the progression of severe asthma and reduce asthma exacerbation and deaths.
People with persistent symptoms must take long-term medication daily to control the underlying inflammation and prevent symptoms and exacerbations. Inadequate access to medicines and health services is one of the important reasons for the poor control of asthma in many settings.
Medication is not the only way to control asthma. It is also important to avoid asthma triggers – stimuli that irritate and inflame the airways. With medical support, each asthma patient must learn what triggers he or she should avoid.
Although asthma does not kill on the scale of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or other chronic diseases, failure to use appropriate medications or to adhere to treatment can lead to death
How Is Asthma Treated?
Take your medicine exactly as your doctor tells you and stay away from things that can trigger an attack to control your asthma.
Everyone with asthma does not take the same medicine.
You can breathe in some medicines and take other medicines as a pill. Asthma medicines come in two types—quick-relief and long-term control. Quick-relief medicines control the symptoms of an asthma attack. If you need to use your quick-relief medicines more and more, visit your doctor to see if you need a different medicine. Long-term control medicines help you have fewer and milder attacks, but they don’t help you while you are having an asthma attack.
Asthma medicines can have side effects, but most side effects are mild and soon go away. Ask your doctor about the side effects of your medicines.
Remember – you can control your asthma. With your doctor’s help, make your own asthma action plan. Decide who should have a copy of your plan and where he or she should keep it. Take your long-term control medicine even when you don’t have symptoms.
1) There is no cure for asthma, but the disease can be controlled in most patients with good medical care. it can
be effectively managed and controlled. The condition should be taken seriously, since uncontrolled asthma may result in emergency hospitalization and possible death.
2) An asthma attack can last from several hours to days if not treated.
3) A severe asthma attack (called status asthmaticus) that does not respond to fast-acting medications can lead to respiratory failure.
4) Common asthma triggers include:
-Allergens (trees, pollen, dust, animal dander, cockroaches, etc.)
– Air irritants (smoke, chemical fumes, strong odors)
– Some illnesses (such as the flu, sinus infection, or upper respiratory tract infection)
– Strenuous exercise
– Extreme weather conditions
– Strong emotions that may change your normal breathing patterns
Before an asthma attack, some common warning signs include an increased need for quick-relief medications (rescue medications), worsening cough, shortness of breath, and lower exercise.
5) An asthma attack occurs when asthma symptoms worsen acutely, and patients feel as if they cannot breathe. Asthma is inflammation and narrowing of the airways (bronchi), and during an attack, the muscles around the bronchial tubes constrict and make it very difficult to breathe. Other symptoms may include wheezing or a rattling sound in the chest. Severe asthma attacks (status asthmaticus) are considered a medical emergency and a delay in care may result in cardiac arrest, respiratory failure, or death.
6) The nasal spray flu vaccine should not be used for people with asthma.
7) Pulmonary function tests (PFTs) are a series of different breathing tests, usually done at a hospital or clinic. Most of these breathing tests are done by blowing into a tube while sitting in a chair or booth.