Asthma Can Be Controlled
Asthma affects almost 10 to 13 percent of the total population of this country. That’s more than three million people. As for children, roughly one in 10 is an asthmatic. Everyday many suffer severe symptoms – debilitating breathlessness, coughing and wheezing – that seriously affect their lives. Some symptoms are easily manageable. All it takes is a little understanding and some preventive measures to lead a normal life.
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a condition which affects the bronchi, or airways, carrying air in and out of the lungs. When sufferers come into contact with something that causes an allergic reaction their bronchi constrict and make it much harder to breathe. Asthma affects people of all ages, but it most often starts during childhood.
What are the Symptoms?
Though symptoms vary, they commonly include coughing, wheezing, a shortness of breath and a tight feeling in the chest. It is one of the most common long-term conditions and is potentially life-threatening if not recognised or managed correctly.
Why do some suffer from Asthma?
The exact reason for this is not known. Researchers think some genetic and environmental factors interact to cause asthma, most often early in life. These factors include:
• An inherited tendency to develop allergies, called atopy (AT‑o‑pe)
• Family history of asthma
• Contracting certain respiratory infections in early childhood
• Exposure to some airborne allergens and viral infections during early childhood as the immune system develops
• Allergic rhinitis
• Airway hyper-reactivity (an exaggerated airway responsiveness to various stimuli)
Asthma causes and triggers
Many allergens can trigger or worsen asthma symptoms:
- Allergens from dust, animal fur, cockroaches, mold, and pollens from trees, grasses, and flowers
- Irritants such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, chemicals or dust in the workplace, compounds in home décor products, and sprays (such as hairspray)
- Medicines such as aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and non-selective beta-blockers
- Sulfites in foods and drinks
- Viral upper respiratory infections, such as colds
- Physical activity, including exercise
Asthma is different for each person. Some of the triggers listed above may not affect everyone. Other health conditions can also make asthma harder to manage include a runny nose, sinus infections, reflux disease, psychological stress, and sleep apnea. These conditions need to be treated as part of an overall asthma care plan.
Types of Asthma
- Extrinsic, or allergic asthma, form 90% of all asthma cases. It typically starts during childhood and can go into remission during early adulthood, only to reappear later.
- Intrinsic or non-allergic asthma, develops during adulthood and is present in 10% of all cases. The condition usually appears after a respiratory infection, is chronic and is often difficult to treat.
How is Asthma diagnosed?
Your doctor can diagnose asthma based on your medical and family histories, a physical exam, and test results. Your doctor also will figure out the severity of your asthma – whether it’s intermittent, mild, moderate, or severe. The level of severity will determine what treatment you can start on.
How can Asthma be prevented?
Currently, there is no cure for asthma. However, you can take steps to control the disease and prevent its symptoms.
• Learn about your asthma and how to control it.
• Follow your written asthma action plan.
• Use medicines as your doctor prescribes.
• Identify and try to avoid things that make your asthma worse (asthma triggers). However, one trigger you should not avoid is physical activity. Physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Talk with your doctor about medicines that can help you stay active.
• Keep track of your asthma symptoms and level of control.
• Get regular checkups for your asthma.
Watch for signs that your Asthma is getting worse
- Your symptoms start to occur more often, are more severe, and/or bother you at night and cause you to lose sleep.
- You’re limiting your normal activities and missing school or work because of your asthma.
- Your peak flow number (a handheld device that measures how well air moves out of your lungs) is low compared to your personal best or varies a lot from day to day.
- Your asthma medicines don’t seem to work well anymore.
- You have to use your quick-relief inhaler more often (If you’re using quick-relief medicine more than 2 days a week, your asthma isn’t well controlled).
- You have to go to the emergency room or doctor because of an asthma attack.
If you have any of these signs, see your doctor. Your doctor will change your medicines or take other steps to control your asthma.
Living with Asthma
The goal of asthma treatment is to control the disease by following the asthma action plan you create with your doctor, taking asthma medicines as prescribed, learning what triggers make your asthma worse and taking steps to avoid them, tracking your level of asthma control, and responding quickly to worsening symptoms. Most people who have asthma are able to manage the disease. They have few, if any, symptoms and can live normal, active lives.