If you experience shortness of breath frequently and hear a wheezing sound while breathing, then get alerted. These are the early symptoms of Asthma Attack. Asthmatic bronchitis is a condition where the chronic inflammation of the lungs is seen which results in coughing, chest tightness, wheezing.
Bronchial Asthma is a very common health issue that is perceived in America. About 1 in every 14 individuals suffers from it. In America, it affects about 8.6 percent of children and 7.4 % of adults. About 3, 300 of Americans die every year because of Asthma attack. In fact, the occurrence of Asthma has increased since 1980, and it affects every race, sex, and age. It has become one of the leading reasons behind the absence from school and work. For some people, Asthma may be a minor nuisance, but other’s finds the symptoms of Asthma interfering with their daily activity and affecting their quality life. In fact, in some cases, Asthma becomes a major problem and can make breathing process difficult, and life and death struggle.
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Asthma cure is not an easy one to achieve, but by a little effort, its symptoms can be controlled. It needs both the hardship of the doctor and the patient to track the symptoms and signs and treat the condition accordingly.
What is Asthma?
Asthma may be defined as a complex chronic clinical syndrome that is characterized by the inflammation of the airways or bronchial tubes and recurrent and reversible obstruction of the airways.
Our airways are the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. But in the case, a person has Asthma the walls inside the airways get swollen, sore and produces extra mucus. Thus, they become very sensitive to the allergens or any irritating situation and react strongly. It leads to hyperactivity of the airways. This strong reaction of the airways makes them narrower and diminishes the supply of air to the lungs. It disturbs the regular breathing pattern and results in severe symptoms such as coughing, shortness of the breath and wheezing respiration.
Types of Asthma
Potential trigger may divide Asthma into two types
1. Allergic Asthma
This kind of Asthma is caused due to the exposure to the allergens. Allergens are a variety of antigens which can trigger dynamic and abnormal immune responses. Such a reaction of the body’s immune system fights off the perceived threat and is termed as an allergy. Examples of a few allergens are pollens, mold, dust mite or pet dander. These allergens may cause sneezing, coughing, runny nose, skin rashes, and swell. But they can also trigger one of a serious health condition known as an Asthma attack. Allergic Asthma is also known as extrinsic Asthma, and it is the more common type. This kind of Asthma typically develops in childhood (2-6 years of age). This is known as childhood asthma.
However, viral infections, tobacco, smoke may also be the reason for the onset of Asthma at an early age. But as research estimates that about 70 to 80 percent of the children who are diagnosed with Asthma have documented allergies. The family history of allergy is also shared with them. Also, some of the patients of allergic Asthma may have nasal allergies or eczema. Usually, in the early adulthood allergic, Asthma goes into remission, but it may appear in later ages.
2. Non-allergic Asthma
Besides allergens, Asthma may also be caused due to exercise, stress, exposure to extreme weather conditions, irritants such as chemical fumes, smoke, strong odors, certain medication, and cold or flu. This type of Asthma usually affects adults (Mostly after 30 years of age) and is more common in middle-aged females. Most frequently it follows respiratory tract infection. This type of Asthma is also known as intrinsic Asthma, nd it represents only a small number of cases. This condition is difficult to deal with and treat. It is often year-round and chronic.
Other types of Asthma include:
1. Cough variant Asthma
It is a kind of Asthma where the main symptom is a non-productive and dry cough. It means that no mucus is expelled from the respiratory tract on coughing. The patients who have cough-variant Asthma does not have wheezing, shortness of breath and other classic symptoms of Asthma. This condition is known as a chronic cough lasting for longer than six weeks. Coughing of such patients increases when they are exposed to triggers such as allergens or other Asthma triggers. When a cough increases with exercise, it is called as exercise-induced Asthma. Cough variant Asthma disease is more common in children and may lead to classic Asthma.
2. Occupational Asthma
It may be defined as Asthma; that is caused due to exposure to allergens or other irritating things at the workplace. Some of the examples of occupational Asthma are
The chemical exposure of the workers in the factories results in the development or worsening of the symptoms of Asthma.
Hemp dust or cotton and flax found in textile industry may cause occupational Asthma.
If you suffer from the symptoms of Asthma or symptoms worsens on working days and improves when during weekends or vacations when you spend any length of time at home and if these symptoms recur on returning to the work you probably have occupational Asthma. The symptoms of Asthma include the general symptoms of classic Asthma. Also, nasal congestion, runny nose, eye irritation may be present.
3. Nocturnal Asthma
If the symptoms of Asthma in adults or children make sleeping impossible and leaves a person tired and irritable during the day time, it is defined as nighttime or nocturnal Asthma. It affects the quality of your life and daily activities.
Symptoms of Asthma
The patients who have Asthma will experience the following symptoms when the patient’s airways become narrow, filled with mucus and inflamed. The most common and classic signs and symptoms of the Asthma are as follows:
- Coughing- A cough is usually worse in the night, when laughing and during exercise.
- Breathing difficulty
- Tightness in the chest
- Shortness of the breath
Wheezing sound (This is a high pitched whistling sound. It is due to the turbulent airflow through the narrowed airways) in the chest on breathing, especially while exhaling. However, the sound may also be whistling or a squeaky sound. One of the important point to note is that the symptoms of Asthma in children may be caused due to several reasons. But they are more likely an indication of Asthma if the following happens:
- The Asthma symptoms in adults occur often
- Symptoms of Asthma will appear and disappear more frequently.
- Symptoms especially, coughing is worse at night or in the early morning.
- Asthma triggers such as exercise, allergens, smoke or stress trigger the symptoms as mentioned above.
The symptoms of Asthma are episodic. Also for an extended period, the patient of Asthma may not display any symptoms. The severity of the symptoms differs from one patient to another. Even the patient himself may experience different symptoms at different times. For some, the symptoms may come and go whereas for others; they are more persistent. In individuals who are suffering from other allergic conditions such as hay fever, eczema, and food allergies the prevalence of Asthma is high and their condition and symptoms displayed may be more severe.
Signs of severe Asthma attack
Sometimes the symptoms of Asthma get worse for a short period, and the condition is termed as an Asthma attack. This situation may appear gradually or suddenly. The signs of Asthma attack are as follows:
- Severe and constant wheezing, tightness in the chest and coughing.
- Patients almost become breathless, and it becomes hard to even to speak, sleep or eat.
- Breathing gets fast
- A rapid heart rate
- Fingers and lips become blue.
The symptoms of an Asthma attack and its severity may vary from mild to moderate from one attack to another. However, a slight Asthma attack is more common, and it is followed by the opening of the airways in a few minutes to a few hours. Severe attacks that are although rare, but may last for long and requires immediate medical attention. But yes to avoid any severe episode and to keep Asthma under control it is imperative to understand the early recognizing signs and symptoms of an Asthma attack.
First sign of Asthma attack
The changes that occur just at the beginning or just before the Asthma attack are called as early warning signs of Asthma. Usually, these symptoms are not so severe and do not interfere the daily activities. So, this is the reason that many people neglect these early signs. But, if one can notice these signs earlier, then you can inhibit Asthma attack and can also prevent the worse conditions. So, know the signs and recognize them in their early stages to lead a happy and healthy life.
- A frequent cough that occurs primarily at night.
- Easily losing breath.
- Become restless quickly, especially during exercise.
- Wheezing after exercise.
- The person may become moody and upset than an ordinary individual.
- Signs of allergy or a cold such as a runny nose, nasal congestion, headache, sore throat or sneezing may be present.
- Changes or decrease in the lung function.
- Difficulty in sleeping.
In the case you experience warning as mentioned above symptoms start practicing the Asthma action plan as described by your doctor.
Causes of Asthma
There are many theories on the Asthma Causes, but, no one knows the exact cause of this disease. But, many assume that the combination of genetic and environmental factors are responsible for Asthma Attack. Some of the possible risk factors for Asthma are as follows
- The family history of Asthma or any other allergic conditions such as hayfever, eczema or food allergies.
- Having an atopic Asthma-like food allergy, eczema or hay fever.
- Bronchiolitis or viral respiratory illness during childhood.
- Exposure to tobacco smoke during childhood.
- Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of Asthma in children.
- Born prematurely or low birth weight.
- Low socioeconomic conditions.
- The symptoms of Asthma usually occur in response to certain triggering factor.
Common triggers of Asthma include:
- Infections of the upper airways, for example, colds and flu.
- Allergens such as dust mites, pollens, animal fur molds or feathers.
- Airborne irritants such as including fumes, pollution and cigarette smoke.
- Certain medicines like painkillers such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
- Emotions – Laugher or stress
- Food additives like sulfites and tartrazine.
- Weather conditions such as sudden changes in temperature, exposure to cold air, thunderstorms and humid hot or days.
- Indoor conditions – like mold, carpet cleaning chemicals and flooring materials.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Food allergies
If you have acknowledged the triggering factors that begin or worsens Asthma in your case, better avoid them.
Common causes of occupational Asthma are:
- Grain dust
- Wood dust
- Animal fur
- Complications of Asthma
The complications of Asthma include:
- Interfere with sleep due to the sign and symptoms such as shortness of breath and coughing.
- Symptoms may interfere quality of life and work.
- Absence from school or work when Asthma flare-ups
- Airway remodeling- In this condition, you can observe a permanent narrowing of airways
- Hospitalizations when Asthma attacks are severe.
- The medications used to stabilize severe Asthma attack may cause side effects in the long term.
- Diagnosis of Asthma
There are no specific tests for Asthma as the symptoms are enough to diagnose the disease. Your doctor may ask you certain questions such as:
Do you notice wheezing or suffers from a cough or shortness of breath often?
Have you noticed triggers that cause or worsen your symptoms?
Do you suffer from other allergic conditions such as hay fever or eczema?
Do you have a family history of Asthma or other atopic conditions?
Tests for Asthma Detection
There are two types of breathing tests through which a physician can confirm the disease.
Spirometry test helps to estimate the capacity of the lungs and how well your airways are present in your body.working.
Peak flow test-
It is a simple test to measures that in one breath how fast you can blow out the air from your lungs. To diagnose work-related Asthma peak, flow test may be done away from work as well as at work.
Other tests include:
This test is done to measure the reaction of your airways to the Asthma triggers.
The laboratory technician may collect the mucus sample to check airways inflammation. The nitric oxide test is also helpful to check airways inflammation.
Common allergy tests include:
- Skin prick test- In this test a small sample of allergen in pricked under your skin gently. If blisters develop within 15 minutes, it suggests a positive allergy test.
- Blood sample test- This test is done to check the substances produced by your immune system in response to allergens.
However, If your doctor feels that no requirement if the test, then they may give you Asthma inhaler to use for a small period. If the inhaler helps to relieve the symptoms, then it’s likely you have Asthma.
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Bronchial Asthma Treatment
Although there is no cure for Asthma, the proper treatment will make an enormous difference in preventing long-term as well as short-term complications caused by Asthma. By controlling the symptoms of Asthma, the patient can live an active and a regular life.
Usually, the medicines you consume with the help of inhalers are very useful in controlling the symptoms of Asthma Attack. Asthma prevention is not possible by one can hinder the symptoms with these simple methods.
The treatment of Asthma includes the following steps:
- Avoiding the triggers.
- Short-acting Asthma inhalers that relax the breathing tubes and relieve the symptoms.
- Preventer inhalers- Use these inhalers regularly to ease the inflammation as well as to inhibit the symptoms of Asthma.
- In some cases, the physician prescribes both preventer, as well as long-acting reliever inhaler.
It is better if you meet your doctor and prepare your personal action plan and take all the medicines prescribed. So that you will learn to monitor your condition and know what to do and which medications to take if you have to prevent and control symptoms of Asthma and Asthma attack.
What to do when you have an Asthma attack
When you have an Asthma attack, you should practice following steps:
- Sit down and take steady and slow breaths.
- Do not panic as this will make your symptoms worse.
- Take one puff in every 30 to 60 seconds. You can take maximum ten puffs. Use spacer if you have.
- Call emergency services in the case you do not have an inhaler or if you do not find any relief after ten puffs. If the ambulance takes more than 15 minutes, repeat step no. 2.
- Even if you don’t need to stay in the hospital, meet your doctor within 24 hours of having an attack and discuss if you require making any changes to your treatment for asthma.
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So, this is the complete pathophysiology if Asthma Attack. Know the information which may help you in tough situations. The information provided here is only for reference purpose. One should seek the physician’s assistance when necessary. Neglecting this may lead to chronic obstructive Pulmonary disorder (COPD). So, seek medical help in time and follow the regular instructions of the doctor to stay away from ill effects of asthma.