What is the cause?
There are many theories why asthma occurs, but probably a number of environmental and genetic factors are involved. Exposure to various irritants, substances that trigger allergic reactions can cause asthma symptoms. Some of the triggering factors are:
- Allergens such as pollen, dust, mites, mold spores
- Respiratory infection (common cold)
- Physical activity
- Cold air
- Some medications such as beta-blockers, aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen
Some of the risk factors to get asthma are:
- Having a blood relative with asthma
- Having an allergic condition such as atopic dermatitis
Symptoms of asthma?
Symptoms of asthma vary from person to person. You might have infrequent asthma attacks that only occur at a time (e.g., when exercising) or you can have them on a daily level in severe cases. Symptoms of asthma are:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness or pain
- Wheezing when exhaling, which is a common sign of asthma
- Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing
- Coughing or wheezing attacks that are worsened by a respiratory virus, such as a cold, or the flu
Signs that your asthma is worsening:
- Asthma signs and symptoms that are more frequent and bothersome
- Increasing difficulty breathing, as measured with a device used to check how well your lungs are working (peak flow meter)
- The need to use a quick-relief inhaler more often
- Often night symptoms
How is asthma diagnosed?
To diagnose asthma, a physician will need to assess your lung function. Basically, doctors check how much air moves in and out during breathing. The tests are:
- Spirometry - checking how much air you can exhale after a deep breath and how fast you can breathe out. This is to determine how narrow your airways are.
- Peak flow - A peak flow meter is a device that measures how hard you can breathe out. Lower than usual peak flow readings are a sign that your lungs may not be working as well and that your asthma may be getting worse. This you can do at home and write asthma dairy.
How is asthma managed?
Treatment usually involves learning to recognize your triggers, taking steps to avoid triggers, and tracking your breathing to make sure your medications are keeping symptoms under control. In case of an asthma flare-up, you may need to use a quick-relief inhaler. Some of the medications are:
- Short-acting beta-agonists These inhaled, quick-relief bronchodilators act within minutes to rapidly ease symptoms during an asthma attack.
- Inhaled corticosteroids - You may need to use these medications for several days to weeks before they reach their maximum benefit. Unlike oral corticosteroids, inhaled corticosteroids have a relatively low risk of serious side effects.
- Combination inhalers – these inhalers have a combination of long-acting beta-agonists corticosteroids. This is used long-term, not for acute attacks.
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