Asthma is a lung disease, which develops due to extra mucus and swelling in the lining of the airways. It is one of the common long-term diseases in children but adults may also experience asthma. You will have symptoms of asthma, which show up in your body. A healthcare provider may recommend tests to diagnose asthma. Know the causes, risk factors, and treatment of asthma in an easy and understandable way. You will also learn how to prevent asthma by considering healthcare guidance.
What is asthma?
Asthma, also known as bronchial asthma, is a long-term disease that leads to a lung disorder. Asthma is a condition in which your airways contract and swell and may develop extra mucus. It can create breathing difficulty and cough, shortness of breath, and wheezing (whistling sound) after taking a breath out.
Asthma can develop in any age group. Above 25 million people have asthma in the U.S. This figure contains more than 5 million children. Asthma can disturb regular activities and may result in a life-threatening asthma attack if you do not receive treatment. Although you may not get cured of it your symptoms can be manageable.
How does asthma attack your body?
Your airway muscles are generally relaxed, allowing air into the lungs easily when you take a normal breath. These conditions may experience in asthma attacks include:
Bronchospasm. The contraction occurs in the muscles of your airways. These tightening muscles create a narrow path for your airways. This results in blockage of air flow through tightening airways.
Inflammation. Swelling forms in the lining of your airways. This condition does not allow enough air to inhale or exit through your lungs.
Development of mucus. Your body develops extra mucus when you experience an asthma attack. This mucus blocks the passage of airways.
Types of Asthma
Many types of asthma are present depending on the extent of symptoms and causes. A healthcare provider considers asthma as:
Mild intermittent: The mild symptoms may show up two times within a week. It includes fewer asthma attacks.
Mild persistent: You will have symptoms four to six times a week. An asthma attack may disturb daily activities.
Moderate persistent: You will experience daily asthma symptoms, which may affect your daily routine.
Extreme persistent: Currently experiencing symptoms during the day and night. This type restricts your daily activities.
Asthma is of these types that include:
- Adult-onset: This type of asthma generally begins in people aged above 18.
- Childhood asthma: This type of asthma starts earlier than five and may develop in infants and kids. A healthcare provider may provide an inhaler to your child after discussing with you if the child experiences an asthma attack.
- Allergic: An asthma attack can occur in a few people carrying allergies. Allergens include air pollution (factory wastage, wildfire smoke, etc.), dust mites, tobacco smoke, mold, and pet dander (skin or hair).
- Non-allergic: Asthma can also develop due to non-allergic factors such as stress, illness, exercise, and weather.
- Exercise-induced asthma: This class is activated when you exercise. It is also known as exercise-induced bronchospasm.
- Occupational asthma: This type develops in those having a daily work routine surrounding hazardous, toxic, or irritating substances.
- Asthma-COPD overlap syndrome (ACOS): ACOS is a group of two conditions asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). These diseases do not allow you to breathe easily.
Symptoms of Asthma
The symptoms of asthma may change from one person to another. People may experience irregular asthma attacks with symptoms at a particular time, such as physical activity. You may have symptoms throughout the day.
Signs and symptoms of asthma include:
- Breath shortness
- Pain or tightening feeling in the chest
- Whistling sound (wheezing) when you take out breath (common in children)
- Difficulty sleeping due to breath shortness, wheezing, or coughing
- Coughing or wheezing attacks may become worse due to a virus like a cold or flu
The more worsening symptoms of asthma include:
- Repeated and irritating asthma symptoms
- Increased breath problems when evaluated using a device (peak flow meter) to observe the working of your lungs
- Often require a sudden-relief inhaler
When do I need to contact a doctor?
An extreme asthma attack may put your life in danger. You may need to discuss with your provider when you have signs and symptoms of asthma that may go towards worse. Talk to a provider in the case of an asthma emergency that includes these signs:
- Breath shortness or wheezing becomes worse quickly
- Unable to recover or improve after using a quick-relief inhaler
- Shortness of breath even if you do less physical activity
- Difficulty walking or talking
- Pale lips or fingernails
You may need to consult a doctor:
- If you consider that you have asthma by observing the symptoms
- To keep an eye on your asthma after a medical diagnosis
- When the asthma symptoms become worse
- To analyze the treatment
Request an online appointment with a professional healthcare provider.
How can a healthcare provider diagnose asthma?
A healthcare provider will ask about your medical history, family history, history of allergies, symptoms of asthma, and other lung diseases. You may need to order a spirometry. This test allows you to measure how much air flows into your lungs. This test also helps to detect and observe the effectiveness of treatment. A provider may recommend a blood test, skin test, or chest X-ray if you experience asthma.
Causes of asthma
The reasons behind asthma are not clearly known. There are no studies present that tell why few people experience asthma while the remaining don’t. Triggers for asthma may vary from person to person. Some people may experience less intense triggers, while others may have more sensitive triggers. These are common asthma triggers that include:
- Infections, such as colds, flu, and specific respiratory infections like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) may affect the children’s lungs that are in the developing phase.
- Allergens (Pollens, dust mites, mold, pet dander, or small waste particles of cockroach)
- Extreme emotions such as sadness, stress, depression, or anxiety
- Tobacco smoke
- Industry wastages
- Weather conditions such as changes in temperature or humidity
- Intake of specific medications that include aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Inherited factors, like having a family history of asthma or allergic diseases, may have more chances of having asthma.
These are the factors that increase your risk of experiencing asthma include:
- Family history of asthma-like parent or cousins
- Have an allergic condition that leads to red itchy skin or heavy fever. It may also result in a runny nose, itchy eyes, and congestion (stuffy nose).
- Native of African American or Puerto Rican descent.
- Asthma attack ratios are higher in boys compared to girls. It is common in females (adults and teens).
- Exposure to smoke
- Exposure to toxic fumes or types of pollution
- Exposure to hazardous substances, such as chemicals that are utilized in manufacturing, farming, and other industries.
Following are the complications of asthma that may arise in your daily life include:
- Having disturbance in sleep, work, and other regular activities due to symptoms
- Taking leaves from school or work if you develop sudden asthma
- Need for an emergency visit for extreme asthma attacks
- Using some medications that show side effects to manage severe asthma for a long period.
- Lack of physical activity
- Mental problems such as depression or anxiety
Asthma may turn into severe health conditions that include:
- Lifetime contraction of the tubes (bronchial tubes) that transport air to and from your lungs.
- Pneumonia and other consequences from infections such as colds or flu
- Respiratory failure
- Lung failure
- Losing pregnancy or early-stage delivery
If you receive complete treatment, you can prevent and treat symptoms of asthma.
A healthcare provider may recommend some medications to manage and control your asthma. These are the medications that you may need to take to decrease the effects of symptoms that include:
- Anti-inflammatory medicines: They help reduce inflammation or swelling and stop the extra mucus development in your airways. They allow air in and out of your lungs in an easy way. You may need to discuss with a provider how many doses you need to take daily to manage symptoms of long-term asthma.
- Bronchodilators: They help to lower and relax the muscles of the airways. The stress-free muscles allow the airways to flow air. They also create a passage for mucus to flow through the airways. These medicines are a significant source to lower the extent of your symptoms and are helpful for intermittent and chronic asthma.
- Biological therapies for asthma: Biological therapies are another way to deal with severe asthma when you have symptoms, even if you take inhaler therapy.
You can take medicines in many ways. You can breathe in medicine with the nebulizer, metered-dose inhaler, and other asthma inhalers. Ask a healthcare provider about the type of medicine you may need based on your current medical condition.
A healthcare provider may provide you with a plan for controlling and preventing asthma attacks that include:
- Follow your treatment plan: You can get a comprehensive plan for getting medications and controlling an asthma attack from your doctor. You should follow your plan as recommended to you. Asthma is a long-term condition that requires daily regulation and treatment.
- Keep away from triggers: Avoid exposure to chemicals, smells, toxic, or products that have developed breathing difficulty in recent times.
- Avoid exposure to allergens: If you have noticed allergens like dust, mold, or others that trigger an asthma attack, try to avoid them from your life.
- Taking allergy shots: You may need allergen immunotherapy, a treatment that helps to improve your immune system. By using recommended shots, your body becomes less sensitive to any triggers.
- Taking the vaccine for pneumonia and influenza: You can improve your chances of preventing asthma if you take the vaccine for pneumonia and influenza.
- Getting suggested medication: A healthcare provider may recommend asthma prescriptions for you. You do not need to take medicine of your own.
- Detect and treat asthma attacks as early as possible: As soon as you act immediately by noticing your symptoms, you will have a low chance of developing extreme asthma attacks. You will also not require more medications to manage your symptoms.
When you see a decrease in your peak flow meter reading will indicate an incoming attack, so take your medication as per the guidelines. You need to stop any activity that may activate or trigger the attack.
- Track your breath and medical conditions: Keep an eye on your breath and current medical condition and see the symptoms that may become worse. You can utilize a peak flow meter for tracking breath as the function of your lung may decrease before the appearance of symptoms. A peak flow meter can indicate how much breath you take out. You can take guidance from a healthcare provider about peak flow meters.
- Give attention to the excess use of the quick-relief inhaler: If you depend on using your quick-relief inhaler, such as albuterol, your asthma cannot be manageable. You can talk with a provider about changing your treatment plan.
Asthma is a condition that affects the lungs and creates difficulty in breathing. Types of asthma may be observed in adults and children of any age. Many medications are available to treat and control the symptoms of asthma. Your healthcare provider will ask about the symptoms, medical history, and family history of asthma from you. By considering lifestyle changes, you may be able to decrease the extent of asthma flare-ups. Talk with an online provider to determine the type of asthma you carry and receive the treatment and management steps as early as possible.