The Causes And Treatment Of Asthma

Asthma is a medical condition where your airways narrow, swell, or produce extra mucus which causes difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, and wheezing and coughing. Asthma ranges from mild to severe, with some people regarding it as a minor inconvenience while for others, it can be life threatening.

Types Of Asthma

Asthma has a variety of causes, and depending on the cause, you may be experiencing a certain type of asthma.

Exercise-induced asthma is due to physical activity, and may be worsened when the air is cold and dry.

Occupational asthma is caused by workplace irritants such as chemical fumes, gasses or dust.

Allergy-induced asthma is triggered by airborne irritants such as pollen, mold, and dander.

Risk Factors For Asthma

Certain factors provide increased risk of developing asthma. These factors include a family history of asthma, being overweight, smoking tobacco, or having another allergic condition, such as atopic dermatitis or hay fever. Other risk factors include exposure to pollutants such as secondhand smoke, exhaust fumes, and chemicals. If you have any of these risk factors, there is a higher rate of developing asthma

Causes Of Asthma

Asthma is typically caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Exposure to allergens and irritants can trigger signs and symptoms of asthma. Triggers for asthma can vary for each individual with this lung condition, but common asthma triggers include physical activity, cold air, air pollutants and irritants, respiratory infections, stress, acid reflux, and food preservatives. 

Other triggers include airborne allergens, such as pollen, dust mites, mold spores, pet dander or particles of cockroach waste, and certain medications, including beta blocker, aspirin, and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Complications Of Asthma

Since asthma affects your breathing ability, it can lead to a variety of complications. Complications from asthma can be disruption of sleep or work, a permanent narrowing of your bronchial tubes which can cause chronic breathing problems, and side effects of long-term use of asthma medications.

Symptoms Of Asthma

Asthma can present itself differently in each individual, although there are many asthma symptoms that commonly occur. Asthma symptoms include feeling short of breath, chest pain or tightness, wheezing upon exhaling, trouble sleeping, and coughing or wheezing attacks that worsen with a cold or the flu.

Signs that your asthma is worsening include increased frequency of symptoms, greater difficulty breathing, and asthma attacks. If you experience these symptoms or have to use your inhaler more often, tell your doctor you believe your asthma is getting worse.

What Is An Asthma Attack?

An asthma attack is a severe symptom of asthma where your airways get tighter and you begin to have extreme difficulty breathing. During an asthma attack, three things may happen.

You can experience a bronchospasm, which is where the muscles around your airways constrict, narrowing your airways and making it difficult to breathe, as air cannot flow freely through constricted airways.

You can also experience inflammation, where the lining of your airways become swollen, which causes breathing problems due to swollen airways causing less air to reach your lungs.

You may have increased mucus production, where your body creates more mucus during the attack which clogs airways.

Asthma attacks can often be life threatening, as they disrupt lung function and create issues when trying to receive enough air.

Testing For Asthma

Doctors diagnose asthma by asking about your medical and family history while also discussing your symptoms. Your doctor will need to know about any history of allergies as well as other lung diseases. Your doctor may order a variety of tests, such as a chest X-ray, skin test, blood test, or spirometry. Spirometry is a test that measures airflow through your lungs and is used to diagnose lung conditions, along with monitoring your progress through treatment.

Your doctor may also give you a test using a peak flow meter, which is a device that measures how hard you can breathe out. If you have lower than normal breathing ability, it is a sign your lungs don’t work as well as they should and you may have asthma. You may also be given other tests, including imaging and allergy tests, nitric oxide tests, methacholine challenge, or sputum eosinophils.

Treatment For Asthma

Although there is no cure for asthma, there are treatment options that can help manage your symptoms. You may be prescribed medicine such as bronchodilators, which relax the muscles around your airways to allow more air to move through them. This medicine also allows mucus to move more easily through the airways which helps them become less clogged so you can breathe better. Bronchodilators are used for quick relief when you experience symptoms, and can be prescribed for both intermittent and chronic asthma.

Anti-inflammatory medicines reduce swelling and mucus production in your airways which makes it easier for air to travel in and out of your lungs. These medicines are taken every day to prevent symptoms of chronic asthma. If your asthma is severe, you may be given biologic therapies for asthma, which is used when symptoms persist even after inhaler use.

Asthma medicines can be prescribed to you in several different forms, with the most common method being an inhaler. Other forms of medication include nebulizers and oral medications. Your doctor may also help you devise an asthma action plan that tells you when and how to use your medications in order to prevent severe asthma symptoms.

How GPS Can Help

At Gwinnett Pulmonary and Sleep, we offer services to help determine if you are dealing with lung conditions such as asthma, and treatment to help if you are. These services include pulmonary function tests, such as spirometry, lung volume, and diffusion capacity; as well as pulmonary rehabilitation.

If you suspect that you may have asthma, it’s important to get tested as soon as possible. Learn more about our services here, or schedule an appointment to talk to our doctors.

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