About Asthma

                                                                What is Asthma?

The air we breathe is carried into and out of our lungs through a system of finely branching tubes. The tubes consist of a wall lined by muscles and a hollow interior, which allows the smooth passage of air. The hollow interior is lined by a tissue rich in blood vessels, nerve endings and mucous glands. It is essential that the hollow interior is maintained without narrowing or obstruction to provide smooth passage of air.

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Asthmatic patients are sensitive to variety of factors that causes the airways to react abnormally when exposed to them and lead to narrowing of the hollow interior. The muscles around the outer walls squeeze the tubes tight and the inner lining becomes swollen. This leads to obstruction of the airways and makes the air flow limited.

 

 What causes asthmatic airways to behave in this way?
 

Genetic (hereditary) predisposition-asthma and allergies are known to run in families

Environmental factors-occupational exposures, indoor air pollution, tobacco smoking may predisposed. 


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What are the symptoms of asthma?

 

•Difficulty in breathing and limitation of physical activities

•Tightness of chest

•Cough

•Wheezing or whistling noises in the chest

•In the majority of asthmatics above symptoms are episodic. Between these episodes patients might not experience any symptoms.

•symptoms are worse during night, early hours of morning or on awakening

•Certain activities or factors may trigger the symptoms  
exercise, cold baths
- changes in weather, dusts, certain food

 

Can Asthma occur at any age?
 

Asthma may occur at any age.

Childhood asthma: Common form of Asthma. These patients have strong family history of Asthma and Allergies.

Late onset asthma: Usually there is no family history of Asthma or Allergies.

Occupational asthma: Exposure to chemical agents, biochemical toxins or fumes at work place will lead to development of asthma.

 

Is Asthma fatal disease?

Life threatening asthmatic attacks can be dangerous and may lead to death. These attacks can be effectively controlled by the appropriate medications as well as by early recognition of the symptoms by the patients. 

Following can be considered as alarming symptoms and prompt medical attention should be sought:

•Disturbance of sleep due to symptoms

•Lack of relief from reliever medication (salbutamol) and progressive symptoms

•Difficult to complete a sentence without feeling breathlessness

 

What are the factors that bring on symptoms of asthma?

 

Allergens

        Asthmatics may develop allergic reaction when exposed to certain factors.

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Non allergens: 

      o Respiratory infections

      o Cold weather, sudden changes in weather and environmental pollutants 

      o Emotions like crying, laughing and stress

      o Tobacco smoke and wood smoke from domestic cooking

 

Can Asthma be cured?

Asthma is a disease like high blood pressure and diabetes, which can be treated and controlled. The majority of the patients with asthma can be treated to achieve a very good control of their symptoms. However they may need long duration of treatment with inhaler medication and in some patients it may be life-long. 

Once started on appropriate inhaled medication asthmatic symptoms can be brought under control within several weeks. However patients’ airway remains inflamed and extremely sensitive to a variety of factors mentioned earlier. Once exposed to these factors they may develop symptoms again. That’s why patients need to be on their preventer medication for a long period of time.

 


Right medications can control Asthma

• Asthma medicines are very safe and effective

• You cannot get addicted to asthma medicine

• It is very important to use asthma medicines in the right way

• Some medicines will work effectively only when you take them everyday

Two main kinds of Asthma medications

Quick relief or rescue medicines

This type of inhaled medicine comes in blue coloured inhalers or capsules (Salbutamol). Every patient with asthma should have a quick relief inhaler. They will help stop coughing and wheezing by quickly opening the airways. However they work only for a short time and should not be used alone on a regular basis as they do not treat the underlying disease process. 

Long-term medicines or preventer medicines

Long-term control medicines will work effectively only when you take them every day. They help stop swelling in the airways. They make your lungs react less strongly to everyday irritants, so you have fewer or no asthma symptoms.

Long-term use of preventer type of inhaled medication protects you from getting severe life threatening attacks of asthma. 

The preventer type of medication when taken initially does not show immediate results, for this type of medicine to show beneficial effects it takes about two or three weeks.

Even in the absence of symptoms, an asthmatic patient’s airways remain extremely sensitive to a variety of factors mentioned early. Therefore this type of medicine should be taken on medical advice even in the absence of symptoms. 


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