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Asthma - Rightangled

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that affects the airways, making it challenging to breathe properly. It is characterized by recurring episodes of wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. These symptoms are caused by inflammation and narrowing of the air passages, which can be triggered by various factors. Asthma can vary in severity and can impact people of all ages, from children to adults.

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About Asthma

Causes

Asthma has a multifaceted origin, influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. Common causes and triggers of asthma symptoms include:

Allergens: Substances like pollen, dust mites, pet dander, mold, and cockroach droppings can trigger asthma symptoms in sensitive individuals.

Respiratory Infections: Viral infections, such as colds and flu, can exacerbate asthma symptoms and trigger attacks.

Irritants: Tobacco smoke, air pollution, strong odors, and chemical fumes can irritate the airways and lead to asthma symptoms.

Exercise: Physical activity, particularly in cold or dry environments, can induce symptoms in some individuals.

Cold Air: Breathing in cold air can cause airway constriction and provoke asthma symptoms.

Emotional Factors: Stress and strong emotions can impact asthma symptoms in some people.

Occupational Exposures: Workplace substances like dust, chemicals, and fumes can trigger or worsen asthma symptoms in certain occupations.

Diagnosis

Diagnosing asthma involves a comprehensive evaluation by a healthcare provider. The diagnostic process typically includes:

Medical History: The healthcare provider will inquire about your symptoms, triggers, family history of asthma, and any previous lung-related conditions.

Physical Examination: A physical exam will be conducted to assess lung function and check for signs of respiratory distress.

Spirometry: This lung function test measures how much air you can inhale and exhale and how quickly you can do so. It helps assess the severity of airflow obstruction.

Peak Flow Measurement: This test involves using a peak flow meter to measure how fast you can exhale. It helps monitor changes in airflow over time.
Allergy Testing: If allergies are suspected as triggers, allergy tests may be performed to identify specific allergens.

Methacholine Challenge: In some cases, a methacholine challenge test may be conducted to determine the responsiveness of your airways.

Treatments

Asthma management aims to control symptoms, reduce inflammation, and prevent exacerbations. Treatment options are tailored to individual needs and may include:

Bronchodilators: Short-acting bronchodilators provide quick relief by relaxing airway muscles and easing breathing during acute episodes. Long-acting bronchodilators are used for maintenance.

Inhaled Corticosteroids: These anti-inflammatory medications reduce airway inflammation and help prevent asthma symptoms.

Combination Inhalers: These inhalers contain both a bronchodilator and an inhaled corticosteroid for both quick relief and long-term control.

Biologics: These targeted therapies are used for severe asthma cases and aim to block specific immune responses.

Leukotriene Modifiers: These medications block substances that contribute to inflammation and constriction of the airways.

Immunotherapy: Allergy shots can help desensitize the immune response to specific allergens.

Lifestyle Modifications: Identifying and avoiding triggers, maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, and managing stress can contribute to asthma control.

Prevention

While asthma cannot be fully prevented, certain measures can help reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks:

Identify Triggers: Work with a healthcare provider to identify and avoid asthma triggers that worsen symptoms.

Medication Adherence: Follow your prescribed asthma management plan and take medications as directed.

Flu and Pneumonia Vaccinations: Annual flu shots and pneumonia vaccines can help prevent respiratory infections that may trigger asthma symptoms.

Air Quality: Minimize exposure to tobacco smoke, indoor allergens, and air pollutants to maintain better air quality at home.

Asthma Action Plan: Work with your healthcare provider to create a personalized asthma action plan outlining steps to take during symptom flare-ups.

Further info

Read more about Asthma on NHS website, following the link below:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/asthma/

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/asthma/diagnosis/

FAQs

Can asthma symptoms change over time?

Yes, asthma symptoms can vary and may change over time. Some individuals may experience periods of remission, during which their symptoms improve or even disappear. However, asthma is a chronic condition, and symptoms can return or worsen in response to triggers or other factors. Regular monitoring and communication with a healthcare provider are important for managing changes in asthma symptoms effectively.

Can children outgrow asthma?

In some cases, children with asthma may experience a reduction in symptoms as they grow older. This phenomenon is often referred to as "outgrowing" asthma. However, asthma can still persist into adulthood, and it's important for individuals who had childhood asthma to continue monitoring their respiratory health and working with healthcare providers to manage any ongoing symptoms.

Are there specific foods that can worsen asthma symptoms?

Certain foods may trigger asthma symptoms in individuals who have a condition known as "food-induced bronchoconstriction" or "exercise-induced bronchoconstriction." These foods, referred to as asthma-inducing foods, can include shellfish, dairy products, and certain food additives. It's important to note that not everyone with asthma will experience this reaction to food. If you suspect that certain foods are triggering your asthma symptoms, consult a healthcare provider for guidance.

Can pregnancy affect asthma symptoms?

Pregnancy can have varying effects on asthma symptoms. While some pregnant individuals may experience improved asthma control during pregnancy, others may find that their symptoms worsen. It's crucial for pregnant individuals with asthma to continue their asthma management plan and work closely with healthcare providers to ensure the safety and well-being of both the parent and the developing fetus. Adjustments to medication and management strategies may be needed under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

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