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Asthma

Overview

Asthma is a very common, long-term respiratory disease. It affects the airway leading it to swell up and produce excessive mucus which can cause shortness of breath

and difficulty breathing. The severity of asthma varies from person to person. Severe asthma can affect a person’s daily life. For such asthmatic people even talking and walking excessively can be problematic. Some people also refer to asthma as “bronchial asthma”.

There are different types of asthma-like allergic asthma, non-allergic asthma, adult-onset, and occupational asthma are amongst a few. Some substances may trigger this condition and can also lead to an asthma attack, also known as asthma exacerbation. These asthma triggers include dust mites, smoke, pets, mold, pollen, and pests.

It is a very prevalent disease, it affects about 25 million Americans and is the leading chronic disease in children.

 

Causes

Doctors

 are not sure what causes this condition but they know it is because of a combination of environmental and genetic factors. There are various irritants that a person may be allergic to. These irritants or allergens can trigger symptoms and signs of asthma in a person.

These triggers include:

  • Airborne substances like pollen and dust mites
  • Preservatives in the food
  • Pests
  • Pet fur
  • Strong smells
  • Smoke

It can also be triggered due to:

  • Cold air
  • Excessive physical activity
  • Respiratory infections like bronchitis
  • Stress
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Certain medication like beta-blockers and anti-inflammatory drugs

Symptoms

The symptoms and signs of this condition vary. They mostly depend on the severity and what exactly is triggering the flare-ups. The common symptoms an asthmatic person exhibits include:

  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Whistling sound when breathing
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiousness

 

These symptoms can get worst and lead to an asthma flare-up if a person is:

  • Exercising
  • Is in an area where there is too much air pollution
  • Exposed to allergens

Diagnosis

Asthma is not diagnosed by a single test or exam. A preventive care physician will perform a combination of tests to rule out any other respiratory diseases and determine what type of asthma an individual suffers from.

The following tests and exams help diagnose this condition:

  • Family history: If anyone in your family suffers from this condition you may likely have it too.
  • Physical Exam: Your preventive care physician will conduct a physical exam which will include listening to your breathing with a stethoscope, and looking into your nose and throat. You may also be given a skin and blood test to see if you are allergic to something. Being exposed to allergens can also lead to a flare-up. You may also be asked to get scans of your chest and lungs.
  • Breathing tests: Lung Pulmonary function tests (PFTs) are used to determine how well your lungs are functioning and how well your breathing is. The spirometry test is often used for this. You blow into a device that measures the speed of the air. These are not performed on children under 5 as it is difficult to get an accurate reading.

 

Treatment

Asthma is a long-term, chronic disease, and to treat it a combination of treatment options is suggested to the patient. It requires disease management which involves recognizing triggers, taking steps to avoid these triggers, tracking your lung function, and in case you are prescribed by the doctor any medication making sure those medications are keeping symptoms under control. You may also need to keep an asthma pump also known as a rescue inhaler in case you frequently get asthma flare-ups. Other than that your preventive care physician may suggest these three treatments depending on what type of asthma you have, the severity of it, triggers, and your age:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Quick-acting treatments like bronchodilators and first aid asthma treatment
  • Medications for long-term asthma

When To See A Doctor

If you are not yet diagnosed with asthma but are exhibiting the signs of it like wheezing and difficulty breathing, visit your preventive care physician now. In case you are diagnosed with this condition, visit your doctor once or twice a year to stay on top of things.

 

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