Asthma is caused by inflammation of the airways and in particular, the small air passages, or bronchi, of the lungs. When someone has an asthma attack, the muscles surrounding these airways become tight and the lining of the air passages swells and produces mucus, which limits the amount of air that can pass through. Wheezing, coughing and difficulties with breathing result.
5 common asthma triggers
There are five common triggers that may lead to the onset of asthma.
Some of the factors that can cause an asthma attack are:
1) Allergies to pollen, animals, dust mites etc.
2) Respiratory infections such as cold or flu
4) Certain medicines
5) Changes in weather
Features of asthma
The symptoms of asthma can be mild to severe and can last from a few minutes to days. Common symptoms of asthma include:
- Frequent cough, especially at night
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness, pain, or pressure
Not every person with asthma has the same symptoms in the same way. You may not have all of these asthma symptoms, or you may have different symptoms at different times. Your symptoms may also vary from one asthma episode to the next. Symptoms may be mild during one asthma episode and severe during another.
Early Warning Signs of an Asthma Attack
Early warning signs start before the more prominent symptoms of asthma and are the earliest signs that a person’s asthma is worsening. Early warning signs and symptoms of an asthma attack include:
- Frequent cough, especially at night
- Losing your breath easily or shortness of breath
- Feeling very tired or weak when exercising, in addition to wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath
- Decreases or changes in peak expiratory flow, a measurement of how fast air comes out of the lungs when you exhale forcefully
- Signs of a cold or other upper respiratory infections, or allergies
- Difficulty sleeping
How Is Asthma Diagnosed?
- A number of tests to diagnose asthma. First, the doctor reviews your medical history, symptoms, and does a physical exam. Next, tests may be given to check the general condition of your lungs, including:
- Chest X-ray in which a picture of the lungs is taken.
- Pulmonary function test (spirometry): A test that measures how well the lungs can take in air and how well this air can be exhaled (lung function). The patient blows into a tube placed between the lips.
- Peak expiratory flow: A test that measures the maximum speed that air can be exhaled from the lungs. The patient blows into a hand-held device called a peak flow meter.
- Methacholine challenge test: A test used to see if the airways are sensitive to methacholine, an irritant that tightens the airways.
- Other tests, such as allergy tests, blood tests, sinus X-rays and other imaging scans, and esophageal (throat) pH tests may also be ordered. These tests can help your doctor find out if other conditions are affecting your asthma symptoms.
Management of Asthma
Education, consciousness and caution these three issues can make an asthma treatment successful. By avoiding asthma triggers, taking medication, and carefully monitoring daily asthma symptoms, asthma attacks can be avoided or at least limited. Proper use of medication is the basis of good asthma control. Drugs used to treat asthma include bronchodilators, anti-inflammatories, and leukotriene modifiers.
- Bronchodilators to Treat Asthma: These drugs treat asthma by relaxing the muscle bands that tighten around the airways. They rapidly open the airways, letting more air in and out of the lungs and improving breathing. Bronchodilators relieve or stop asthma symptoms during an asthma attack.
- Anti-inflammatories and Asthma: These asthma drugs, which include inhaled corticosteroids, reduce swelling and mucus production in the airways. As a result, airways are less sensitive and less likely to react to triggers. Anti-inflammatories are taken daily for several weeks before they begin to control asthma. If taken every day, they can control or prevent asthma symptoms.
- Leukotriene Modifiers for Asthma Treatment: Leukotrienes are chemicals that occur naturally in our bodies and cause tightening of airway muscles and production of mucus and fluid. Leukotriene modifiers work by limiting these reactions, improving airflow and reducing asthma symptoms.