What Exactly is Asthma?
According to Medical News Today on Asthma, “Asthma is a chronic disease of the airways that transport air to and from the lungs. No full cure is available, but management methods can help a person with asthma lead a full and active life.”
Asthma is a chronic medical condition that causes inflammation and narrowing of the bronchial tubes. In typical asthma affected, the bronchial tubes, which are the inside walls of the airways get inflamed or swollen, which makes the airways susceptive to irritability and allergic reactions.
Asthma makes difficulty in breathing and triggers cough, wheezing and shortness of breath. For some, asthma can be a minor nuisance, but for some, it can be a major problem that can interfere with daily activities and may lead to life-threatening asthma attacks.
With the rise of asthma cases year by year, it is pertinent to know exactly what it is, its causes, how to prevent it from occurring to you and in case you get affected by it, how it can be treated.
Asthma can’t be cured, but its symptoms can be controlled. Because asthma often changes over time, its important that you work closely with your doctor to track your signs and symptoms and adjust treatment as needed.
Asthma is typically indicated if you frequently experience shortness of breath or hear a whistling wheezing sound in your chest while you breathe. When this sensitivity increases, causes the muscles, that control the airway, gets tighten. In doing so, they might restrict the airways even further and trigger an overproduction of the mucus.
10 Main Types of Asthma
While asthma is known to be caused by various factors that come together and those we have discussed in the previous sections of the article, there are known to be various types of asthma depending on the age of the affected and severity of the illness.
As per Asthma UK, the following types of asthma have been known to mankind and affecting a large number of people in various ways.
According to Asthma UK, “Everyone with asthma experiences the condition differently – the underlying causes, symptoms and triggers of asthma, and how they respond to treatment are all different for each individual.
This makes it very hard to put asthma into exact categories, but if you have asthma, knowing the different terms is useful.
It can help you to understand more about your own condition, what treatment you may need and how you can manage your asthma better.”
|Childhood Asthma||Children are more susceptible to develop an intermittent form of asthma. Some children may even experience daily symptoms, but the most common type of asthma attack is triggered by heightened sensitivity to substances that cause allergy.|
Another major asthma causing agent amongst young children is second-hand tobacco smoke that causes severe problems for children with asthma.
|Adult Onset of Asthma||Asthma among adults persists and requires everyday management of the illness.|
While allergies amount to almost 30 per cent of precipitation of asthma in adults, obesity also plays a strong role in adult-onset asthma. Based on the trend and general observation, women over 20 years of age are more likely to develop this medical condition.
Going by what Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has to say about asthma, “Asthma symptoms can appear at any time in life. People can develop asthma at age 50, 60, or even later. Adults who develop asthma are said to have adult onset asthma.
Unlike children who often experience intermittent asthma symptoms in response to allergy triggers or respiratory infections, adults with newly diagnosed asthma generally have persistent symptoms. Daily medications may be required to keep asthma under control.”
|Occupational Asthma||This type of asthma is directly triggered by the job or profession you are engaged in. Professional belonging to certain industries like baking, laboratory work or manufacturing.|
As per Medical News Today, “Asthma that is linked to the workplace may be described as work-aggravated, which becomes worse because of the work environment; Allergic, when the immune system becomes sensitized to a substance at work, and after some time, a person develops symptoms; and Irritant, when a person’s airway reacts to an irritant soon after exposure.”
|Difficult to Control and Severe Asthma||This type of asthma causes the affected to display consistent asthma symptoms and breathing difficulties.|
According to Asthma UK, “Severe asthma needs specialist assessment and very different support and treatments – about 250,000 adults and children in the UK are diagnosed with it.” This type calls for appropriate treatment which if administered correctly and in time, can bring asthma symptoms back under control.
|Seasonal Asthma||Seasonal asthma occurs due to allergens present in the environment at specific times of the year.|
For instance, Delhi NCR experiences smog every November due to the burning of crops, which leads to asthma attacks in numerous people residing in these cities.
Certainly affected people have asthma all the year round but show symptoms only during specific times of the year when the component of their allergens rises in their surrounding environment.
|Allergies and Asthma||It is a known fact that a strong link exists between allergies and asthma.|
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005–2006 shows that over 65 per cent of adults over 55 years of age with asthma also have an allergy, and this stands true for almost 75 per cent of adults between the ages of 20 and 40 years.
|Asthma Caused by Smoking Tobacco||Partners Healthcare Asthma Centre’s research on asthma reveals that tobacco smoke is linked to an increased risk of asthma, wheezing, severe respiratory infections, and even death from asthma.|
Also, kids whose parents are smokers are at a greater risk of developing asthma.
|Asthma Due to Environmental Factors||Air pollution can severely trigger asthma and other allergies. The various factors that contribute to environmental factors triggering asthma are indoor air pollution from mould or fumes from household cleaners and paints.|
Other major allergens include pollution, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, ozone, cold temperatures and high humidity amongst others.
|Obesity-Related Asthma||According to Experimental Biology and Medicine, there is a link between obesity and asthma. The research suggests that the inflammatory mechanisms that drive asthma also link to obesity.|
According to the report, “The parallel increase in asthma and obesity prevalence has led to several studies examining the possible relationship between these two conditions. A study examining the trends in obesity among adults, using data from the NHANES I (1971–1975), II (1976–1980), and III (1988–1994), found that BMI increased universally among adults with asthma and those without; however, the prevalence of obesity rose more in the asthma group (21.3–32.8%) compared with the non-asthma group (14.6–22.8%).”
|Pregnancy Induced Asthma||Smoking tobacco or other prohibited substances by pregnant women may lead to the development of asthma in the baby. It may make the baby prone to other illnesses as well, besides asthma.|
What Happens To Your Body When You Have Asthma?
In this allergic reaction, swelling of the airways accompanied with tightening of the muscles around the airways takes place, which makes it difficult for movement of air in and out of the lungs leading to difficulty in breathing.
According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, “Asthma has no cure. Even when you feel fine, you still have the disease and it can flare up at any time. However, with today’s knowledge and treatments, most people who have asthma are able to manage the disease. They have, few if any, symptoms. They can live normal, active lives and sleep through the night without interruption from asthma.
If you have asthma, you can take an active role in managing the disease. For successful, thorough, and ongoing treatment, build strong partnerships with your doctor and other health care providers.”
With the swelling of the airways, they become extremely sensitive to the substances the affected is inhaling and begin to show symptoms triggered by the smallest of allergens.
Signs and Symptoms of Asthma
According to Asthma sufferers, an asthma attack can be quite a scary experience.
According to them, they feel as if someone is sitting on their chest while there is a cloud-like feeling in the lungs.
The person struggles to breathe fully and feels like they are drowning in the air. The asthma attacks vary in their intensity ranging from mild to severe. The intensity of the attack depends on what caused it and for how long the airways have been inflamed.
The symptoms may include
- Tightness in the chest
- Wheezing sound
- Disturbance in sleeping due to obstructed breathing
Or all these together. When the reaction becomes more severe, the airways may get restricted further causing overproduction of mucus.
While it may take a few minutes for mild asthma attacks to subside, more severe ones can last from hours to days.
A mild asthma attack can resolve spontaneously or may even require medical intervention, generally a medicated inhaler that provides quick relief.
More severe asthma attacks can be shortened with appropriate treatment with the help of a medical practitioner.
What Causes Asthma Attacks?
Other common triggers smoke or chemical fumes, and strong odours, such as perfume. As a matter of fact, certain health conditions like the flu, sinusitis or even a mild upper respiratory infection may also lead to an asthma attack.
Also, strenuous exercise, extreme weather conditions and strong emotions that affect the normal breathing patterns may also trigger asthma attacks.
Sometimes, the condition of GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) causes asthma when acid is thrown back to throat form stomach.
According to US National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, “As per WHO estimates, approximately 250,000 people die prematurely each year from asthma.
Trends of asthma mortality rates vary very widely across countries, age and ethnic groups.
Several risk factors have been associated with asthma mortality
- A history of near-fatal asthma requiring intubation and mechanical ventilation
- Hospitalization or emergency care visit for asthma in the past year
- Currently using or having recently stopped using oral corticosteroids (a marker of event severity)
- Not currently using inhaled corticosteroids, a history of psychiatric disease or psychosocial problems
- Poor adherence with asthma medications and/or poor adherence with (or lack of) a written asthma action plan
- Food allergy in a patient with asthma.
In a few cases of asthma attacks, swelling of the airways can completely stop the oxygen from reaching the lungs, which subsequently, prevents it from entering the bloodstream and thus the vital organs.
This kind of asthma is classified under the “extremely severe” category and can be fatal and requires urgent hospitalization.
Diagnosis of Asthma
The diagnosis of asthma comprises of three components viz. Medical history, physical exam and breathing tests.
The physician will try to diagnose the level of asthma as well as the type of asthma through these techniques.
The information regarding medical history gives an insight into the types of asthma and allergy to any specific allergen.
Whereas, the physical examination includes testing the signs of wheezing sound or high-pitched whistle in the lungs during breathing out.
Eating Fish A Good Way To Prevent Asthma?
- According to Lawrence T. Chiaramonte, MD Allergy & Immunology, “When cold-water fatty fish containing comparably large amounts of the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are consumed, or when we take their oil as a supplement, EPA and DHA displace arachidonic acid from cell membranes.
- These cells subsequently release relatively higher concentrations of fish-derived oils. The end products are mediators that are less inflammatory than normal.
- This shift toward less inflammatory mediators would lead us to expect to see less inflammatory activity in the lungs, and a subsequent improvement in asthma symptoms.
- Epidemiological studies do show that the more fish we eat, the less risk of asthma.
- However, the clinical data is equivocal when it comes to taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements, with studies showing both positive and negative results.”
So here was a comprehensive and evidence-based article on asthma and related aspects.
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