Asthma: Causes, Triggers, Symptoms, Treatment!

Asthma

Have you seen someone who all of a sudden starts struggling to breathe when they are in a place that is dusty, or due to smoke? Think Asthma.

Asthma or Bronchial Asthma is a common condition that affects about 300 million people worldwide.

It is more common in childhood. It is seen more in the towns due to increased amount of dusts & smokes from vehicles. This condition can start at any age. Hence, you can be surprised to see someone who hasn’t felt that way before, only to start noticing it after changing environment.

A young boy using an inhaler to relieve his Asthma. Image Credits: Central Kasoa Clinic

Some persons have mild disease, whereas others can have severe disease. Inhalers containing Anti-asthma medications are very important in its management.

Table of Content

What is Asthma

Asthma is a medical condition caused by inflammation (swelling) of the airway. This inflammation (swelling) of the airway is caused by abnormally increased responsiveness of the airway to some substances (e.g dust), that they are allergic to.

Just imagine a pipe that is supposed to transmit water. All of a sudden, it starts swelling inside. This swelling reduces the amount of water that can pass through that point. If nothing is done, the swelling would continue to increase & block the pipe, and then, no water can pass through again.

This is what happens in asthma, but the water in this case is Air. Due to the swelling, you find it difficult to breathe in air, and if nothing is done, death can result.

What causes Asthma?

The cause of Asthma is complex, and it has to do with both genetic & environmental factors.
Genetic considerations: There is high degree of concordance in identical twins. That is, if one twin has Asthma, there is every chance that the other twin would have it. These indicate a genetic cause to the disease.

Environmental factors include; Allergens, occupational sensitisers, Passive smoking, Respiratory infections & early viral infections.

Triggers for asthma includes:

  • Allergens: Inhaled allergens are the most common triggers of asthma symptoms. Exposure to house dust mites in early childhood is a risk factor for allergic sensitization and asthma.
  • Animal furs: Domestic pets, particularly cats, have also been associated with allergic sensitization.
  • Upper respiratory tract viral infections
  • Exercise: have also been known to trigger attacks
  • Cold air: Cold air or temperature can trigger attacks in some people.
  • Drugs (like aspirin): There is also a link with paracetamol consumption, which is not clear yet.
  • Stress/Emotions: Emotional challenges, like break ups or stress can also trigger attacks in some persons.
  • Irritants (household sprays, paint, fumes).

Symptoms of Asthma

The characteristic symptoms are;

  • wheezing: making a whistling sound while trying to breathe.
  • Dyspnea: the person would be struggling/gasping for air.
  • Coughing

The symptoms may be worse at night.

Treatment of Asthma

There is no permanent no cure for this condition, but there are a number of treatments that can help control it and help affected persons better manage the condition and live their normal lives. This includes;

  • Avoidance of exposure to things that are known to cause or worsen asthma such as house dust mite, animal dander (cat allergen) and cigarette smoke.
    Certain drugs e.g aspirin, ibuprofen, etc and beta blockers should be avoided.
  • Drugs: This is done using inhalers containing;
    PREVENTERS: used to prevent attacks. Examples are fluticasone, prednisolone, etc.
    CONTROLLERS; e.g; salmeterol, aminophylline, montelukast
  • RELIEVERS: For quick relief of symptoms and use in acute attacks. Examples; salbutamol, terbutaline, Ipratropium bromide, etc

Spread the awareness!
Asthma is Manageable!
Always have your inhalers in your bag.

Authors

  • Obasi Chinedu David attended the College of Medicine, University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, in ituku-ozalla, Enugu state, Nigeria.

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