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Asthma – Every Breath you Take

Asthma is a chronic disease of the respiratory system. After the exposure to certain endogenous (internal) and exogenous (environmental) stimulus, the airways reduce in diameter, meaning, the bronchi narrow, limiting the flow of air to the lungs.

The origin of the condition is quite complex and involves irritation, inflammation, intermittent obstructions and bronchial hyper responsiveness. There are a large number of patients who present symptoms in a mild and sporadic manner. However, some asthma attacks can manifest themselves pretty severely, where the airways are constricted for longer periods of time. Breathing becomes extremely difficult and even painful with forced inhalation. This can give a sensation of choking, panic can ensue, exacerbating the issue.

According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), around 234 million people in the world suffer from asthma, which corresponds to 4.9% of the world population. Asthma is a condition present in all countries and affects people of all ages, although it presents itself more frequently during childhood. During this age, cases of asthma are usually associated with allergic factors.

The origin of asthma is not always known. However, it is important to distinguish between etiological factors such as genetics and certain triggers that are responsible for some crises in diagnosed patients.

Some etiological factors that we can mention are:

  • Genetic components: family history of asthma, allergies and any related breathing difficulties.

  • Exposure to pneumo-allergens: some factors can produce allergies and respiratory symptoms. The most important ones are microscopic fungi, fur or dandruff of domestic animals, fabrics (such as wool), smoking, sawdust, mites, dust and pollen.

Asthma triggers are usually environmental. Some of them are:

  • Viral infections

  • Tobacco smoke

  • Celiac disease or gluten intolerance

  • Contaminated environments with poor quality air

  • Sudden changes in climate

  • Prolonged use of some antibiotics and drugs

Asthma symptoms appear acutely or chronically, depending of the immune system of each patient. Although the symptoms manifest according to the type of asthma and severity level, the patient will experience these general symptoms:

  • Irritating cough with little phlegm and sometimes completely dry

  • Difficulty breathing, which usually happens when performing exercises or high impact activities. In some severe cases it appears when speaking or even at rest.

  • Whistling sounds emanating from the chest. These are sounds that are produced by the narrowed passage of airways. They are easier to detect when the patient is examined with a stethoscope.

Other symptoms that should be noticed include: fatigue, throat pain and irritation, a sensation of pressure in the chest, irregular breathing (slower or faster than normal), nasal congestion (thick mucus that is difficult to eliminate), frequent sneezing and a difficulty walking or talking.

The diagnosis of asthma begins with the patient’s evaluation, including family history, risk factors and other antecedents. In addition, the doctor may request some of the following tests to pinpoint the diagnosis: allergy tests, blood tests, pulmonary function tests, x-ray of thoracic cavity and paranasal sinuses, and concentration of arterial blood gas (when asthma is severe).

Unfortunately, asthma is one of the chronic diseases that has no cure. However, there are treatments that help control it. The objective of the treatments is to reduce the severity of the condition and the recurrence of symptoms. Other goals of the treatment are:

  • Prevent and relieve chronic symptoms such as cough and breathing difficulties

  • Help maintain the proper functioning of the lungs

  • Lower the need to use quick relief medicines

  • Avoid asthma attacks

Some of the medical treatments that your doctor or specialist may recommend include: anti-inflammatories such as corticosteroids (beclomethasone, budesonide, and fluticasone), bronchodilators (salbutamol, terbutaline, salmeterol and formoterol), anticholinergics (ipratropium bromide) and antihistamines (although they don’t control the disease they are useful for neutralizing allergic symptoms).

It is also important to carry out an action plan that has the following measures:

  • Medications should be taken according to the doctor’s orders, which involved taking them at the same time every day

  • Seek medical attention when necessary, especially if you suffer from severe symptoms.

  • Avoid environmental triggers

  • Understand your limits when exercising

Robert Velasquez
13 November, 2018

Written by

Hello everyone, my name is Robert Velazquez. I am a content marketer currently focused on the medical supply industry. I studied Medicine for 5 years. I have interacted with many patients and learned a lot...read more:

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