Asthma – Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

Over twenty-five million people in America live with a disease of the bronchial tubes called asthma. Almost 57% of asthma patients are children which shows the severity of weak immune system in American kids. Major causes of asthma in USA are ever increasing environmental pollutants and day to day lifestyle.

Recent studies by various researchers suggest a high incidence of asthma in first-born children which means weak immunity to allergens in new mothers. Expert opinions regarding the degree to which asthma is hereditary differ. One fact that all experts agree upon is that the likelihood of becoming asthmatic increases significantly if one or both parents already suffer from the condition.

Asthma is a disease of the bronchial tubes. In an asthma attack, the bronchial tubes become inflamed, reducing the diameter of the bronchial tubes and restricting the amount of air going into and out of the lungs. If left untreated, the bronchial tubes can become further irritated so that normal breathing is restricted. Despite its worrying implications, however, asthma is both controllable and reversible.

The best methods for controlling asthma vary among asthmatics. Prevention and treatment methods should be individualized. When working with your doctor to develop the program that is best suited to your condition it’s often helpful to bring along printouts of information about treatment options and a list of any questions you have. This way you’ll be better prepared for asthma treatments appropriate to your situation.

Types & Causes of Asthma:

Previously asthma condition was divided into two clearly defined types i.e. Extrinsic (allergic) asthma and (non-allergic) Intrinsic asthma. However due to dramatic change in our lifestyle and habits in past decades, now there are several types of asthma. These types are based on activity or environmental factors. Following are some of the major types of asthma

Allergic Asthma: Approx. 90% of asthmatics suffered by Allergic Asthma. People suffering from allergic asthma are basically allergic to a certain element like dust mites or pollen. These elements acts as the primary asthma trigger for them. Good news is majority of the asthmatics suffering from allergic asthma knows their trigger and can avoid it.

Children are prone to allergic asthma due to either maternal smoking or if the mother is exposed to cigarette smoke frequently.

Intrinsic Asthma: This type of asthma is not dependent on any allergy. It can be caused by external elements like perfumes, fumes etc.

Exercise-Induced Asthma: As the name suggest, this type of asthma is primarily caused by strenuous exercise like weight lifting or running.

Nocturnal Asthma: This type of asthma involves asthma attack while sleeping. It can be any time of day and usually caused by change in temperature or gastroesophageal reflux (GERD). It may also cause by allergens in bedding.

Occupational Asthma: This asthma type involves asthma caused due to certain occupational environment factors like wood dust, paint fumes etc.

Steroid-Resistant Asthma: This asthma is caused by overuse of steroid based asthma medications.

Always carry your asthma inhalers with you, even if you think you are in a “low” risk environment. Inhalers are highly effective & the quickest way to control asthma. Some medications are specifically designed to be used before entering into a situation of potential asthma triggers.

Symptoms & Diagnosis of Asthma:

Generally, if you feel breathlessness or trouble in breathing at certain times, there is a high chance that you have asthma. The first step is to find out the source or trigger that is causing such condition. For example if you feel difficult to breathe in air conditioned room then your asthma trigger could be air conditioning or if you get short of breathe while running, then your asthma trigger could be strenuous exercise.

You may also use a peak flow meter to determine whether you are asthmatic or not. Similarly Spirometry tests and patient physical examination by a doctor is more definitive asthma diagnosis.

What Triggers An Asthma Attack?

The air we breathe has lots of stuff & particles due to certain environmental factors that can trigger asthma. These may include, but not limited to, dust mites, certain chemicals, fumes, hair particles, smoke, pollen, etc.

Similarly certain conditions like stress, emotional upsets or change in temperature may also cause an asthma attack. However these asthma triggers are specific to individual asthmatics and vary based on individuals condition.

Taking Control of Common Indoor Asthma Triggers

Taking certain steps can help reduce the number of asthma triggers in your home. In most cases, a minor adjustment to everyday routine is all that’s required to minimize triggers and prevent an attack.

Carpeting is one of the key culprits for concealing asthma triggers. Dust mites, pet dander and other small particles hide in carpets. Frequent vacuuming with HEPA vacuums may help, but in chronic asthma the complete removal of carpeting in the bedroom can minimize many asthma triggers.

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Reduce asthma triggers in bedding by selecting pillows and blankets filled with man-made fibers rather than down or feathers. Wash bedding in hot (130 °F) water to kill dust mites and remove allergens. If the bedding cannot be washed in hot water, placing it in an airtight container for 48 hours will kill dust mites or other live allergens.

Controlling Common Childhood Triggers

The most common triggers of childhood asthma are pet dander (dried skin flakes found on pets) or dust mites. Stuffed toys and bedding are primary locations for dust mites. Occasionally placing stuffed toys in the freezer for 24 hours or in an airtight container for 48 hours will reduce levels of dust mites. Use allergen-free cases to cover pillows, mattresses and box springs. To minimize pet dander vacuum often and keep all smooth surfaces well dusted.

Asthma Treatments – Understanding Your Treatment Options

Knowing and understanding the treatment options available for asthma is important. While some options may not be applicable to your situation or suitable for your circumstances being armed with knowledge will certainly help you to discuss your treatment options with your doctor.

When your doctor recommends you a treatment, you should know what the medication does, how it works, possible side effects, how to deal with those side effects, when to call the doctor, and other important drug information. Following are some of the asthma treatments.

Avoid The Asthma Trigger: The basic treatment is to figure out your asthma trigger and try to avoid it as much as you can.

Asthma Inhalers: You can also use asthma inhalers which are conveniently available over the counter or online stores like Amazon.

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Asthma Medications: Thanks to recent advances in medical technology, asthma patients have now several medications available at their disposal which can quickly and effectively control their asthma. Majority of these drugs are focused on relaxing the muscles around the airways and known as Bronchodilators. You can use them by inhaling, digesting, or injecting. Following are some of the drug groups used for Asthma medications.

  • Beta2 (ß2) adrenoreceptor agonists
  • Corticosteroids (steroid drugs)
  • Anticholinergic drugs (ipratropium)
  • Xanthine derivatives
  • Leukotriene modifiers
  • Sodium cromoglycate drugs

 

Allergy Immunotherapy: Basically this therapy works by strengthening your immune system against the asthma triggers. In this treatment, allergens that are triggering asthma are injected in your body in a controlled environment to make your body more immune to their effects.

Bronchial Thermoplasty: It is, relatively, a new and a potential asthma treatment. Clinical trials has shown some promising results and it appears to be an effective treatment for asthma. However, like all other treatments, this treatment is focused on reducing asthma symptoms and severity and it’s not a cure for asthma itself.


References & Citations:

http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/asthma
https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/asthma/
http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/asthma/pages/introduction.aspx
http://www.aafa.org/page/asthma-facts.aspx
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/asthma.htm

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