Respiratory Health

“Take care of your breath, it’s a lifelong companion.”

What is asthma?

Asthma

Asthma is an airway inflammation disease that causes breathing difficulties. When you have asthma, the problem isn’t so much that you can’t breathe in properly, but that you can’t breathe out. This means that you’re actually being suffocated by your own breath, saturated with carbon dioxide. And if you can’t breathe out, fresh air can’t get in.

Asthma is a very common condition, especially among children, and attacks often occur at night and early in the morning. Asthma attacks can range from mild to severe, and can sometimes even be life-threatening.

Some people have daily asthma attacks; for others attacks can be years apart.

Common symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and tiring quickly when doing exercise.

Asthma is thought to be triggered by allergies or when the lungs become irritated by something in the air, such as tobacco smoke, air pollution or chemicals in the workplace. Other possible triggers include infections, emotions, aspirin, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD) and exercise.

The most common treatment for asthma is the fast- and short-acting bronchodilators in the form of asthma pumps. This is called reliever therapy.

But short-acting bronchodilators, or relievers, don’t treat the inflamed airways, and doctors also focus on the treatment of the chronic inflammation of the airways as an effective way of controlling asthma in the long term. This is done by means of controller therapy – usually a type of cortisone, also administered by an inhaler pump and/or leukotriene receptor antagonist tablets.

If you have asthma, you need to be able to identify your asthma triggers and do everything in your power to avoid them. A severe asthma attack must be taken extremely seriously – seek emergency medical attention immediately.

The good news is that you should be able to lead a normal life, which means you should be able to eat, drink, work, exercise and sleep normally. If this isn’t the case, your diagnosis, treatment and medication should be re-evaluated.

(Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is to provide general background information and not to substitute any medical diagnosis or advice received from a qualified healthcare professional.)

References

– Levin, Mike, MD. Asthma. Health24.com. May 2011. [Online] Available at: http://www.health24.com/Medical/Asthma/Overview/What-are-the-symptoms-of-asthma-20130205. Accessed: 27 July 2015
– Miles, Matthew, C. MD and Peters, Stephen P. MD. Asthma. The Merck Manual. July 2014. [Online] Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pulmonary-disorders/asthma-and-related-disorders/asthma. Accessed: 27 July 2015

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