A chronic respiratory disorder, asthma causes narrowing and swelling of the airways in the lungs due to the entry of allergens or irritants in the system. Therefore, the body reacts by producing excessive mucus which further leads to the onset of symptoms like coughing, chest tightness or pain, difficulty breathing and wheezing. The effects of asthma differ from patient to patient. For some, the condition might be mild, whereas for others it could be severe, affecting the quality of life. Currently, doctors categorize asthma signs and symptoms into four categories, i.e., mild intermittent, mild persistent, moderate persistent and severe persistent.
Researchers aren’t sure what exactly prompts the asthmatic condition, however, they believe that it could be a combination of hereditary and environmental factors. Moreover, the triggers for an asthmatic attack are different for everyone. Here are some of the common ones:
- Allergens like dust, pollen, spores, or pet dander
- Exercise or physical exertion
- Cold air
- Common cold
- Pollutants and irritants such as chemicals, gas, or smoke
- Certain types of medications like aspirin, ibuprofen or beta blockers
- Chronic stress
- Preservatives and sulfites added to food products
- GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
The pulmonologist will conduct a physical exam and inquire about your symptoms to rule out the possibility of other respiratory conditions. Along with these tests, he or she will also recommend tests like spirometry and peak flow to determine the amount of air that moves in and out of your lungs. Based on the results, they might also ask you to undergo additional diagnostic tests such as methacholine challenge, imaging tests, sputum eosinophils, allergy testing, nitric oxide test, and provocative testing for diagnosing asthma.
Treatment and prevention
Depending on the type and severity of the asthmatic symptoms a pulmonologist might prescribe a combination of drugs which might comprise:
- Long-term asthma medications like inhaled corticosteroids, combination inhalers, beta blockers and leukotriene modifiers.
- Rescue or quick-relief medicines such as short-acting beta agonists, oral or intravenous corticosteroids.
Bronchial thermoplasty can be advised to alleviate severe asthmatic symptoms.
Prevention remedies could include making some healthy lifestyle changes like getting regular exercises, maintaining a healthy weight and managing GERD symptoms. You can diminish the chances of an asthmatic attack by:
- Cleaning your home at least once a week to prevent mold spores and dust mites
- Using air conditioning at home
- Installing a humidifier to prevent dry air
- Getting your pets frequently groomed
- Covering your nose and mouth in cold environments