Asthma is a commonly found disease which is chronic in nature and causes inflammatory disorders of a patients airways(passage through which air reaches the lungs of a human body). The type of health problems encountered due to such a condition by a person are attacks of wheezing, coughing, breathlessness and chest tightness.
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Over the last four decades instances of asthma has multiplied significantly over the world, which can quite understandably be attributed to the explosion of pollution, population and contamination of nature by various man made activities. The graveness of the situation and the disease can be understood by the fact that 250000 deaths, globally, were reported in 2009 due to Asthma.
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Causes of Asthma
Asthma is caused by environmental factors and may also be influenced by family history of this chronic disease. The symptoms are generally triggered by inhaling of allergy causing substances known as allergens. Following is the list of common allergens:
- Animal hair(usually of pets)
- Weather changes.
- Respiratory infections like common cold.
- Emotional imbalances and stress.
- Smoking and usage of tobacco in various forms.
In some patients asthma is also provoked by non steroidal anti – inflammatory drugs like Aspirin.
Signs and Symptoms of Asthma
Asthma is characterized generally by coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. The symptoms may vary where in the patient can have long term difficulty in breathing with sudden episodes of increased shortness of breathing. The Asthma attack scan last for few minutes or days and may be serious deserving urgent medical attention if airflow is severely blocked. Symptoms are listed as below.
- Coughing, may be dry or with sputum.
- Wheezing may be in various forms. It may come in episodes and normal in other times.
- Shortness of breath which worsens with physical activity.
- Abnormal breathing pattern.
- Chest pain or tightness feeling in chest.
- Flaring of nasal.
Differnet Types of Asthma Allergies
Clinically asthma is classified according to various factors such as frequency of symptoms, and the expiratory flow rates. Other factor of classification include a topic of non-atopic i.e. .whether the condition is invoked by allergens or not. Following are the few modes in which this can be classified.
- Brittle asthma
- Characterized by frequent severe attacks .This can appear in spite of intense medication in some cases.
- Excercise induced Asthma
- There has been a correlation that is discovered between exercise and the disease. Sports such as cycling, running and mountain biking are found to be more susceptible to the disease as found in certain studies.
- Occupational Asthma
- This kind of asthma is a very commonly reported occupational respiratory disease. This refers to the asthmatic condition that arises or worsens due to the exposures one has to face during his/her work hours. The highly impacted occupations under this category are operators, labourers and fabricators which mainly come under the canopy of the manufacturing industries. The exposure to animal proteins, enzymes, flour and chemicals are believed to be a high contributor to the work related asthma. Other occupations, such as management, sales or administrative jobs, though less severely hit, but do have substantial contribution to asthma.
Diagnosis of Asthma
Currently there is no precise medical test used to diagnose or confirm the presence of asthma in a patient. Rather, the approach that is mostly taken is based on the pattern of symptoms.
In many a cases, the health care specialist may suggest some therapy for some duration of time and then diagnose the problem as asthma if the patient responds positively to the medication.
Generally, the diagnosis comprises of assessing the following indicators
- Wheezing –Whistling sounds usually of high pitched, when the patient exhales.
- Family history of asthma attacks.
- Frequent difficulty in breathing, recurrent coughing or feeling of chest pain or tightness.
Treatment for Asthma Allergies
In case avoiding the triggers only does not suffice, medical suggestions should be sought.
Medications used in asthma are classified in two categories.
- Fast Acting.
- These are quick relief drugs usually to be taken in acute conditions.. These medicines include inhalers (bronchodilators) such as salbutamol, proventil and ventolin. The doctor may prescribe some oral steroids comprising of pills or capsules in case the attack refuses to go and is very sever in nature.
- Long term control.
- This type of medication is to be used if the patient is not suffering from acute life threatening attacks, and aims at controlling the disease by taking the medicines for a longer period of time in a consistent manner. Corticosteroids, which are generally taken by inhaling are used which aim at preventing the air passage in the respiratory system from swelling up and thus blocking the airway. Long-acting beta-agonist inhalers also fall into this category which has generally effect tof at least 12 hours. Few other medications that fall under this category are Omalizumab and Cromolyn sodium (Intal) etc.