Home / Allergies / What is Asthma

What is Asthma

Asthma is a chronic lung disease, which affects the air passages to the lungs causing them to become inflamed, swollen and narrow causing wheezing, breathlessness and tightening in the chest.

Twenty two million Americans suffer from the disease, six million of whom are children. The number of sufferers is growing, yet the exact cause is still unknown, however research in this area continues.

The latest hypothesis has been placed at the door of modern living and western society, whereby the over-emphasis of hygiene and sanitation, prevents early childhood illness and as a result robs them of the opportunity to develop antibodies that would serves to strengthen the immune system.

The generally accepted causes include household dust mites, cockroaches’ cat and dog dander, smoking and being in a tobacco filled atmospheres, have all been identified as having the ability to trigger an asthma attack in susceptible individuals.

The most common symptoms include coughing, especially early morning and at night, wheezing, tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, accompanied by the feeling of not being able to breathe out or catch breath.

All of the above symptoms may not occur at the same time and the severity may also vary from attack-to attack. However, it is extremely important that early symptoms are treated as soon as they appear and are not allowed to develop, because severe asthma attacks can be life threatening.

The physician is able to diagnose the disease by taking a full medical history and a lung function test in an effort to access how much air can be breathed in and out. He also measures the speed at which air can be blown out of the lungs. Other tests include a chest X-Ray, an electrocardiogram and other tests designed to identify the substance which trigger attacks.

Once the tests results have been gathered, the physician can then discuss the management strategy that needs to be employed, in an effort to reduce the frequency and number of attacks experienced. An action plan should be developed, which includes the regular used of prescribed medication as directed.

The regularity and severity of attacks should be monitored, recorded and periodically reported to the physician so that adjustments if necessary can be made to the medication regime. Identified triggers should be avoided as much as possible and early symptoms should be responded to quickly to avoid them worsening. Seek emergency medical attention when necessary and prescribed medication should always be carry to enable a quick response in the event of an attack.

If the sufferer is a child, then all care givers including babysitters, teachers and extended family members, should be made fully aware of what action should be taken in the event of an asthma attack.

Asthma is usually treated on two levels. Medication is prescribed for quick relief and for long-term control. Long term medication is corticosteroid base, prescribed to control inflammation and prevent attacks, whilst the quick relief medication helps to manage the acute symptoms of flare ups by opening the airways. Prescribed medication usually comes in the form of inhalers that are able to deliver quick relief or in tablet form.

Asthma is a chronic lung diesase which cannot be cured, however with careful management and the correct medication, it can be kept under control and although the sufferer can remain symptom free for very long periods of time, it must be borne in mind that it can flare up at any time without warning.