Asthma: Causes And Symptoms

Asthma is a chronic disease, wherein the bronchial tubes constrict the inflow and outflow of air in the lungs due to chronic inflammation and swelling, causing breathlessness and wheezing. It also triggers excess mucous production, which further irritates the air passageways. As a result, oxygen supply to the bloodstream and organs reduces alarmingly.

“Mildness and severity of the condition vary in every individual. Immediate medical attention is needed only in severe cases. Severe asthma attacks can be life-threatening and fatal in severe cases. Further, it can cause COPD (a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease which causes inflammation and damage to the lungs) and emphysema (where the lung’s air sacs are damaged, as seen usually among smokers)”, Dr Angeli Misra, Director, Lifeline Laboratory said.

Asthma cannot be cured. It can only be controlled. Appropriate medical management can help keep asthma under control.

The prevalence of asthma in India is estimated to be about 2% among adults and 6% among children. A majority of children generally outgrow the chronic condition once they reach adulthood. Comparatively, more males suffer from it at a younger age than females. It is interesting to note that the prevalence of asthma is more common among women than men in general.

Causes, Risk Factors and Common Triggers Of Asthma

  • Heredity;
  • Allergies triggered by pet fur, dander, mold, cockroaches, cigarette smoke, smoke, strong odors, feathers, etc.;
  • Air pollution;
  • Indoor pollutants like smoke from cooking fuel, cleaning agents, etc.
  • Sudden change in temperature, or exposure to extreme cold;
  • Occupational factors: factories and workplaces where there is constant inhalation of chemicals, stone dust; and bakeries, flour mills, restaurant kitchens; farms, zoos, pet shops; hospitals; carpentry and woodwork shops;
  • Airborne viruses;
  • Cold and sinus attacks;
  • Excess physical activity and physical exertion;
  • Hormonal changes;
  • Obesity;
  • Stress and extreme emotional states like anger, fear and depression.

Symptoms of Asthma

  • Breathlessness or gasping for breath;
  • Wheezing or whistling sound while breathing;
  • Phlegmy cough;
  • Excessive coughing at night;
  • Tightness in chest and throat;
  • Frequently feeling drained of energy;
  • Difficulty sleeping.

Diagnostic Tests

  • A spirometry test is conducted by the doctor to determine if a person is suffering from asthma or not, as well as to gauge whether it is mild, moderate, intermittent or severe.
  • Blood /allergy tests.
  • Sputum test for eosinophils

Treatment

The doctor would recommend a combination of oral and /or inhaled broncho-dilators and corticosteroids, leukotriene modifiers, theophylline, short or long-acting beta-agonists, and anti-allergy and mucous-thinning medication.

Preventive Tips

  • Learn to identify triggers and impending attacks by self-monitoring.
  • Keep medicines /inhaler pumps handy at all times.
  • Strictly adhere to the long-term treatment plan.
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