Asthma: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Ashtma is an inflammatory condition of the lungs that causes the airways become narrow and inflamed. This chronic disease is a global health problem, known to affect millions of people worldwide. A person develops symptoms of asthma when the tissues lining the airways swell and muscles around them tighten. While it is common to see asthma in children, adults can also develop asthma, even at an old age. 

 

Symptoms

 

The symptoms of asthma varies from one person to another in frequency and severity. While some people may remain asthma free most of the time, for some the symptoms could occur on a daily basis. 

The symptoms may include:

  • Coughing, particularly at night or early morning
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing (a coarse whistling sound when you breathe)
  • Waking up in the night due to asthma symptoms

If your asthma becomes more frequent and bothersome, it is sign that it is probably worsening.

 

Causes

 

The exact causes of asthma is unknown, but there are certain factors that contribute to the disease:

  • Allergies
  • Environmental factors
  • Genetics
  • Respiratory infections

 

Triggers that can cause an asthma attack

 

If a person comes in contact with substances, called triggers that irritate them, it causes an asthma attack. While some may get an attack immediately, for others it could start hours or days later. Here are some common triggers:

 

  • Air pollution: It includes car exhaust, factory emissions, and smoke
  • Dust mites: Dust mite allergy can cause an asthma attack
  • Exercise: Aerobic activity can cause an attack.
  • Mold: People allergic to mold spores may witness an asthma flare-up
  • Pests: Mice and cockroaches can cause asthma attacks
  • Pets: The pets can cause asthma attacks
  • Tobacco smoke: Smoking puts you at a higher risk of developing asthma.
  • Strong chemicals or smells
  • Certain occupational exposures
  • Infections like cold and flu
  • Medicines especially anti-inflammatory painkillers like ibuprofen and aspirin
  • Sudden changes in weather that includes cold air, wind, and heat

 

Diagnosis of asthma

 

A doctor may use a variety of tools to diagnose asthma:

 

Health history - Your doctor may look at your health history knowing your exposure to second hand smoke, allergies, and exposure to pollutants.


FeNO test - It measures the amount of nitric oxide gas exhaled, a sign of inflammation in your lungs.

Lung Function Tests - Also called pulmonary function tests, or PFTs, these tests measure how well you move air in and out of your lungs. One of the several types of lung function tests is spirometry that looks at how much air you exhale and how quickly you exhale.  

Peak flow test - A peak flow meter measures how well your lungs can expel air. It lets you keep a track of the day-to-day changes in your breathing. 

 

Treatment

 

Unfortunately there’s no cure for asthma. However, there are a variety of medications that can aid in controlling the disease. For this your doctor may create a person action plan so that you can live a normal and active life. It may include: 

 

Short-term relief medicines - These medicines help prevent or relieve symptoms during an asthma attack. For instance, you may have to carry an inhaler, a device that let you breathe in medicine, with you at all times. If the asthma is severe you may have to take various tablets and medicines. 

 

Strategies to avoid triggers - If your asthma is triggered by tobacco smoke, you may have to avoid people who smoke near you. You should avoid carpets or rugs, especially in bedrooms. At the same time, vacuum each week using a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.

 

Sources:
https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/asthma
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/6424-asthma
https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/asthma