What is asthma?
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways (bronchi). Bronchi generally allow for the passage of air in and out of the lungs. In asthma, these airways develop hypersensitivity, inflammation, and narrowing. This causes difficulty in breathing. In the United States, approximately 26 million adults and 7 million children are affected by asthma.
Asthma can be classified into four types based on the severity of the disease, which includes:
Mild intermittent asthma
The typical characteristics of this type are:
- Symptoms are mild that occur less than twice a week
- Nighttime symptoms occur less than twice a month
- Few asthma attacks occur
Mild persistent asthma
The typical characteristics of this type are:
- Symptoms occur three to six times a week
- Nighttime symptoms occur three to four times a month
- Asthma attacks may affect activities
Moderate persistent asthma
The typical characteristics of this type of asthma are similar to those of mild persistent asthma.
Severe persistent asthma
In this type of asthma, the symptoms worsen continuously resulting in limitation of activities.
What is the main cause of asthma?
Several factors may cause asthma. Based on the triggers that cause an asthma episode, asthma can be classified as:
- Exercise-induced asthma: Exercise can worsen the symptoms of asthma. Simple exercise may exacerbate the symptoms in people with highly inflamed airways.
- Nocturnal asthma: Aggravation of asthma at night is common in people with nocturnal asthma.
- Occupational asthma: Exposure to dirt, chemicals, and irritants in the workplace can induce asthma.
- Steroid-resistant asthma: Some severe cases of asthma may not respond to steroid therapy (steroid resistance).
- Allergic asthma: Allergens such as pollen, mite, dust, mold, latex, and pets can trigger asthma in some people.
- Nonallergic asthma: Extreme weather, stress, and infections such as sinusitis, colds, and the flu could be some of the trigger factors that induce nonallergic asthma.
- Aspirin-induced asthma: Aspirin may induce asthma symptoms in some people.
- Eosinophilic asthma: High levels of white blood cells called eosinophils can cause this type of asthma.
Asthma may also be triggered by
What are the symptoms of asthma?
Recognizing the symptoms early and treating it is of utmost importance. The three major signs of asthma are airway obstruction, inflamed airways, and sensitive airways.
Early warning signs of asthma, which occur before an episode, include:
- Runny/stuffy nose
- Throat itching
- Feeling tired
- Difficulty sleeping
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Mood swings
- Breathing changes
- Less tolerance for exercise
An asthma episode, also known as an asthma attack or asthma flare-up, is characterized by
When to consult a doctor for asthma?
If any of the below severe asthma symptoms occur, seek emergency medical treatment immediately:
- Severe coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, or chest tightness
- Fast or slow breathing
- Cyanosis (blue-colored or pale face, lips or fingernails)
- Difficulty walking
- Hunched shoulders
- Difficulty speaking or concentrating
- Retraction (ribs or stomach that move inwards while breathing)
- Rapid movement of nostrils
How is asthma treated?
There is no cure for asthma, however, asthma symptoms can be managed by lifestyle modifications and treatment.
Asthma treatment includes:
- Inhaled corticosteroids,
- Leukotriene modifiers,
- Short-acting beta-agonists and
These are usually in the form of inhaler pumps and nebulizers.
Asthma symptoms can be managed by bringing some lifestyle modifications:
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid asthma triggers
- Stay fit and healthy
- Practicing yoga may help to control symptoms
With timely treatment and management, asthma symptoms can be controlled and complications can be prevented.
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