Asthma is a chronic disease involving the airways, also called bronchial tubes, which allow air to come in and out of the lungs. It inflamed the airways, causing the muscles around the airways to tighten. This condition makes it difficult for air to move in and out of the lungs, causing cough, wheezing and shortness of breath or chest tightness.
For many asthma sufferers, the manifestation of symptoms is closely related to physical activity. However, some otherwise healthy people could develop asthma symptoms when exercising. This is called exercise-induced bronchconstriction (EIB) or exercise-induced asthma (EIS). In any case, people with a family history of allergies or asthma are more prone to developing asthma.
According to Dr. Tomiwa Akinsete, a senior physician of Lagos University Teaching hospital (LUTH), asthma is a common long-term inflammatory disease of the airways of the lungs. It is characterised by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction and bronchospasm.
Symptoms of asthma
According to the leading experts in asthma, the symptoms of asthma and best treatment may be quite different, according to cases. However, the most common symptoms is wheezing, a scratchy or whistling sound when one breathes.
Other symptoms include shortness of breath, chest tightness or pain, chronic coughing and trouble sleeping due to coughing or wheezing.
Dr. Tomiwa said asthma symptoms, which is also called asthma flare-ups or asthma attacks, are often caused by allergies and exposure to allergens, such as pet dander, dust mites, pollen or mold.
Non-allergic triggers include smoke, pollution or cold air or changes in weather.
Children with asthma may show the same symptoms as adults. In some children, however, chronic cough may be the only symptoms.
Patterns in asthma symptoms are important and can help your doctor make a diagnosis. Pay attention to when symptoms occur: at night or early morning, during or after exercise, during certain seasons, laughing or crying, when exposed to common asthma triggers.
Asthma complications include interference with sleep, work or recreational activities. Also there is permanent narrowing of the bronchial tubes (airway remodelling), which affects how well you can breathe.
In a rare case, asthma can lead to a number of serious respiratory complications, including pneumonia (infections of the lungs) ,a collapse of a part or all of the lungs; respiratory failure, where the levels of oxygen in the blood becomes dangerously low or the levels of carbon-dioxide becomes dangerously high.
An allergist diagnoses asthma by taking a thorough medical history and performing breathing tests to measure how well the lungs work. One of these tests is called spirometry.
The test is taken by taking a deep breath and blowing into a sensor to measure the amount of air the lungs could hold and the speed of the air one can inhale or exhale. This test diagnoses asthma severity and measures how well treatment is working.
Management of asthma
There is no cure for asthma, but symptoms can be controlled with effective asthma treatment and management. This involves taking your medications as directed and learning to avoid triggers that cause your asthma symptoms.
Controller medications are taken daily and include inhaled corticosteriod. People with asthma are at risk of developing complication from respiratory infections such as influenza and pneumonia. That is why it is important for asthma sufferers, especially adults to get vaccinated annually.
However, there are a number of things that can increase the chances of developing asthma. These include family history of asthma or related allergic conditions known as atopic allergy or hay fever, having another atopic yourself, mothers smoking during pregnancy, being born prematurely or with a low birth weight. Someone may also be at risk of developing asthma through his or her job.
If you take long term control medicines, like inhaled corticosteroids, you can reduce swelling of the airways and keep it healthy, but if your asthma goes untreated, problems develop which could cause damage to the airways that, in turn, makes the asthma worse.
It is important to know when to see a doctor if you have asthma. An asthma inhaler usually gives relief. However, immediate medical attention is necessary if the symptoms do not improve after using an inhaler. Also an emergency care is needed if there is extreme difficult breathing, severe chest pain, and difficulty in walking or talking and bluish tint to the skin.
Meanwhile, asthma medications are usually grouped into relievers and preventers. Preventers are used daily, whereas relievers medicines are used when necessary to relieve symptoms. Most are taken using inhaler or puffers.
Some asthma medications are in tablet form, including Prednisone, which is usually only used to treat severe asthma flare ups.
There are many preventive measures. One of them is to keep the home clean to prevent accumulation of dust and breathing of dust mites. Also keep the home well-ventilated and none of the family members should smoke around a patient with asthma.
Always maintain a healthy style and drink a lot of warm water to keep bronchi moist too.
While asthma itself is not preventable, self-care and taking sensible preventative measures can reduce its risk. Adults with asthma can also benefit from vaccination against pneumococcal disease.
If you are a smoker and you have asthma, you should stop smoking to significantly reduce the severity and frequency of your symptoms. Smoking can also reduce the effectiveness of asthma medication. If you do not smoke and you have asthma, avoid being exposed to tobacco smoke.