Asthma, as you might know, is a chronic condition which causes the air carriers airways to be narrowed and cause lung inflammation. To put it simply, it makes breathing difficult and may cause severe wheezing and breath shortness. Depending upon the severity of the condition, asthma may be a little nuisance for some and a matter of life and death for others.

No matter how dangerous asthma can get, there are treatments that help minimize the symptoms, if not completely cure it. Also, asthma changes with the time so it is recommended to keep visiting your doctor for regular treatment.

Asthma Causes

It is still unknown how some people have asthma and some don’t. However, researchers believe that there is a mix of environment and genetic factors that cause asthma. In addition to that, exposure to several different irritants and substances also give rise to asthma symptoms. Even the triggers of asthma may vary from person to person. These may include:

  • Long and regular exposure to cold air
  • Long-lasting respiratory infections also become a trigger for asthma
  • Pet dander, pollen and dust mites in addition to airborne substances
  • Regular exposure to dust and smoke also triggers asthma
  • Researchers believe that strong emotions and stress may also cause asthma

There are also a number of risk factors that increase your chances of having asthma. For example, being obese, smoking excessively or being a passive smoker, exposure to heat fumes or even having a blood relative with asthma may add to your chances of having asthma. [i]

Asthma Symptoms

The symptoms of asthma vary greatly from case to case. Also, an asthma attack or often called, asthma flare-up may occur any time. For example, some people may have asthma attack only while exercising but others may have this condition all the time. Depending upon the severity of the symptoms, they may last for a few minutes or even several days.

Shortness of breath is the number one symptoms of asthma. Besides that, chest tightness or chest pains, insomnia because of coughing and breath shortness may also be symptoms of asthma. Sometimes, coughing or wheezing are worsened by the respiratory virus e.g. flu. A whistle like sound while exhaling is one of the most common symptoms of asthma in kids.

Then there are signs that show that asthma is getting worse. These include increase in the frequency of the symptoms, further increase in difficult to breathe, this can be checked with the help of peak flow meter. Peak flow meter is a device that doctors use to check the performance of the lungs. These are the asthma signs and symptoms that you should be on the lookout for and get in touch with your doctor in time. [ii]

Asthma treatment

Doctors recommend a physical exam almost every single time. This is to rule out other possibilities such as COPD or respiratory infection. It is up to the doctor as to how do they want to perform the physical exam and they may ask you questions regarding your symptoms and medical history. Spirometry test is often taken to determine how air moves in and out as your breathe. Additional tests include nitric oxide test, allergy testing, sputum eosinophils, methacholine challenge and more.

As far as the treatment is concerned, doctors recommend that prevention and long-term control are always better than the medications. Doctors may take into account your age, severity of the symptoms and asthma triggers to prescribe you the best medicine. Almost all the medications prescribed by the doctors, work to reduce the inflammation in the airways. The bronchodilators, or more commonly known as inhalers work to instantly open the airways and ease the breathing process. If you have any allergies, doctors may seem it fit to prescribe some anti-allergy medicines. [iii]

Inhaled corticosteroids

Doctors sometimes prescribe these anti-inflammatory drugs to be used for several days until they start showing their effects. The major difference between oral corticosteroids and inhaled corticosteroids is that the oral ones have more side effects. Inhaled corticosteroids are safe for long-term use.

Combination inhalers

Fluticasone-salmeterol is the most commonly prescribed medicine from this category. They have a long-acting beta agonist and a corticosteroid. They are known for showing great effects for asthma patients.

There are a few quick-relief medications which you can take with your doctor’s prescription. It is recommended to only take these kinds of medications during or before workout or when you are having an asthma attack. [iv]

Short-acting beta agonists

They are bronchodilators for providing quick relief and they only take a few minutes to provide relief to the patient. They have levalbuterol and albuterol in them, both known to be good for asthma. They are mostly present in the medical stores in the form of compact hand-held inhalers.

If the patient has some sort of allergies, doctors may deem fit to prescribe him immunotherapy. What happens in immunotherapy is that the patient’s immune system’s reaction is slowly reduced to that specific allergy. The treatment involves receiving one shot per week and it could last for several months.

Bronchial thermoplasty

This is a treatment that is not available to everyone, nor is a right choice for most patients. It is only best suited to patients who have not shown improvement against any other medications and preventions. Doctors heat the inside of the airways with the help of an electrode. What happens is that it restricts the airways to tighten, hence reducing the symptoms of asthma and making it easier for the patient to breathe.

A few lifestyle choices are recommended by the doctors to control asthma at an early stage. These include maintaining a healthy diet, controlling your weight to stay within BMI limits and getting plenty of exercise. Asthma is not an excuse for getting no exercise. Keep it mild and make a routine of getting enough exercise to keep yourself active. Being obese not only makes it difficult to cope with asthma but also causes other diseases if not controlled.