Asthma and respiratory allergies
Their types, causes, symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis, and treatments
Facts to know about asthma and allergies
What are asthma and respiratory allergies?
Bronchial asthma, commonly known as asthma, is a medical condition that results from narrowing and swelling of the airways, and excess mucus production in the airways. In an acute asthma attack, which often occurs due to an allergic trigger, the patient may feel wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath.
Often, asthma is confused with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonology Disease (COPD). While both the diseases show similar symptoms, they differ largely with respect to the underlying causes and their physical presentation and hence, diagnosis and treatment.
Sometimes, asthma and acute bronchitis occur together in a patient. Such a condition is known as asthmatic bronchitis.
- Asthmatic Bronchitis- Increased inflammation and mucus in the bronchus, which often develops from allergies and can be acute or chronic
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonology Disease (COPD)- A group of lung diseases – bronchitis or emphysema (destruction and enlargement of air spaces) or both.
What are the symptoms of asthma?
Symptoms of asthma generally vary from person to person, but some of the common ones are:
- Breathing problems like shortness of breath
- Pain or tightness in the chest
- Sleep difficulty due to shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing
- Wheezing, a sound like a whistle on exhaling is characteristic of asthma, especially in children
Some common symptoms of bronchitis include:
- Breath shortness
- Chest discomfort
- Fever with chills
- Mucous production
What are the types of asthma?
Depending on the condition that leads to flaring up of the symptoms, asthma may be classified as:
- Exercise-induced asthma, where the symptoms aggravate on doing physical activity
- Occupational asthma, where the bout gets triggered by certain irritants in workplace like dust, chemicals etc
- Allergy-induced asthma, which is induced by natural irritants in the surrounding like pollen, hay, dander, dust allergy etc
What are the causes of asthma?
The exact cause of asthma is not clearly understood, it is believed that there could be associated genetic and environmental factors involved. Some of the common triggers of asthma are:
- Blast of cold air
- Certain medications
- Exposure to irritants like pollen, dust, smoke, mold spores, chemicals etc
- Factors eliciting a stress response like exercise, tension, strong emotions etc
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Respiratory diseases and infections of respiratory tract like common cold
- Preservatives in fruits, natural food like mushroom, shrimp etc
What are the risk factors of asthma?
Certain conditions that increase the risk of asthma include:
- Active or passive smoking
- Allergic conditions like hay fever or allergic rhinitis
- Constant exposure to pollutants, exhaust fumes,and industrial chemicals
- Family history of asthma, especially in parents or siblings
How can asthma attacks be prevented?
Though asthma can’t be prevented altogether, certain lifestyle changes can help in preventing the attacks and severity of asthma like:
- Adhering to your physician or pulmonologist’s instructions and treatment plan
- If advised by your pulmonologist, taking vaccinations for flu and pneumonia
- Identifying and avoiding triggers
- Learning to identify and treat attacks early without ignoring the warning signs.
How is asthma diagnosed?
Your pulmonologist/immunologist/physician may be able to diagnose asthma with:
- Medical history
- Physical examination
Depending on the requirements, some or combinations of the following tests may be advised
- Tests to measure the lung function
- – Spirometry
- – Peak flow
- – Lung function tests
- Imaging tests
- – Chest X-ray
- – Computerized tomography (CT)
- Allergy testing
- Blood test
- Sputum (saliva) eosinophilcount
- Bronchial provocationtesting
- Additional tests if required
- Methacholine challenge
- Nitric oxide test
What are the treatments for asthma?
Treatment of asthma is focused on preventing acute asthma attacks and maintaining a long-term control. Some of the treatment options include:
- Medications- oral or intravenous, nebulization
- Asthma inhalers with bronchodilators for quick relief
- Immunotherapy or allergy shots to reduce the reaction of the immune system to specific allergens
Bronchial thermoplasty is suggested for severe asthma that does not respond to medications. It is a safe, minimally invasive procedure that aims to open up the narrowed airways and facilitate airflow (and breathing). This is achieved by selectively reducing the thickness of the smooth muscle mass by applying radio-frequency pulses.
An asthma attack should be treated as an emergency. Call for medical help –
- When shortness of breath occurs at rest or when it is triggered with slightest physical activity
- When shortness of breath or wheezing is uncontrollable and doesn’t improve even after using an inhaler
It is important to learn more about bronchial thermoplasty, its clinical efficacy, safety, success rates, and improved asthma outcomes it has to offer.
To know more about asthma, you can request a callback and our asthma and respiratory allergies specialist will call you and answer all your queries.
Our informative blogs on Asthma and Respiratory Allergies:
- Mayo Clinic. Asthma. Available at:https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/asthma/symptoms-causes/syc-20369653. Accessed on March 7, 2018.
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Asthma. Available at:https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/asthma Accessed on March 7, 2018
- Centre for disease control and prevention. Asthma. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/asthma/faqs.htm Accessed on March 7, 2018