Asthma is an inflammation of the airways to the lungs, resulting in breathing difficulties and even making some physical activity hard to do. Usually, when you breathe, the air passes through the nose or mouth then down to your throat. Then it gets into your airways and finally your lungs. Tiny air passages in your lungs deliver the oxygen from the air into your bloodstream.
Asthma occurs when the lining in your airways is inflamed, and the muscles around them tighten. As such, mucus fills the airways reducing the amount of air that can pass through, resulting in an asthma attack.
Signs and symptoms of an asthma attack
One of the apparent signs of an asthma attack is wheezing or a whistling sound that comes out when you breathe. Other symptoms that may signal an asthma attack include:
- Rapid breathing.
- Chest pain.
- Shortness of breath.
- Tightness in the chest.
- Difficulty talking.
- Trouble sleeping.
While some people experience the symptoms consistently, others experience them after exposure to certain types of activities—also, not everyone who is asthmatic experiences the same type of symptoms. Symptoms of asthma flare-ups include coughing, wheezing, chest pains, fatigue, and throat clearing. Flare-ups improve with the use of asthma medications like inhalers.
However, you should seek immediate treatment if your asthma condition doesn’t improve even after using an inhaler or when you experience emergency symptoms like:
- Severe breathing difficulty.
- Gasping for air.
- Difficulty talking or walking.
Causes of asthma
Asthma has various causes, including:
- Genetics- there is a high chance of getting asthma if a parent or sibling has it.
- Hygiene hypothesis- experts say that when babies are not exposed to enough bacteria during their early months, they do not develop a strong immunity to fight off allergic conditions and asthma when they grow.
- A history of viral infections- you are likely to develop asthma if you have a history of severe viral infections, especially respiratory infections.
Common asthma triggers include allergens, environmental irritants, pets, extreme weather conditions, vigorous exercise, certain medications like NSAIDs, respiratory infections, and pests.
Diagnosis of asthma
A doctor can use different criteria to determine if the symptoms you are experiencing result from asthma. The most used diagnosis methods for asthma include:
- Breathing tests- during a pulmonary function test, you blow into a thorasys oscillometry used to measure airflow into and out of your lungs.
- A physical examination- usually, a doctor listens to your breathing pattern through a stethoscope or looks for signs of a respiratory problem.
- Health history- the doctor reviews your health history to determine the level of risk you are exposed to.
Treatment of asthma
Asthma treatment largely depends on the type of asthma and the symptoms you are experiencing. But generally, it falls into four major categories including:
- Quick-relief medications.
- Long-term relief medications.
- A combination of quick-relief and long-term relief medications.
- Injection or infusion for severe forms of asthma.
It is essential to learn your asthma triggers so that you avoid them, monitor your flare-ups, and take the necessary measures to keep the condition under control. You should see a doctor when the symptoms become uncontrollable.