Asthma

Asthma is a disorder that causes the airways of the lungs to swell and narrow, leading to wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing.  Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways.

Causes of Asthma

Your airways are tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. If you have asthma, the inside walls of your airways become sore and swollen. That makes them very sensitive, and they may react strongly to things that you are allergic to or find irritating. When your airways react, they get narrower and your lungs get less air. Cells in the airways may make more mucus than normal. Mucus is a sticky, thick liquid that can further narrow your airways. This can cause wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and trouble breathing, especially early in the morning or at night.

Symptoms of Asthma

  • Cough with or without sputum (phlegm) productionAsthma before-after
  • Pulling in of the skin between the ribs when breathing (intercostals retractions)
  • Shortness of breath that gets worse with exercise or activity
  • Wheezing, which:
    • Comes in episodes with symptom-free periods in between
    • May be worse at night or in early morning
    • May go away on its own
    • Gets better when using drugs that open the airways (bronchodilators)
    • Gets worse when breathing in cold air
    • Gets worse with exercise
    • Gets worse with heartburn (reflux)
    • Usually begins suddenly

Emergency symptoms of Asthma:

The prevalence of childhood asthma in the Unit...
The prevalence of childhood asthma in the United States has increased since 1980, especially in younger children. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Bluish color to the lips and face
  • Decreased level of alertness, such as severe drowsiness or confusion, during an asthma attack
  • Extreme difficulty breathing
  • Rapid pulse
  • Severe anxiety due to shortness of breath
  • Sweating

Other symptoms that may occur with this disease:

  • Abnormal breathing pattern –breathing out takes more than twice as long as breathing in
  • Breathing temporarily stops
  • Chest pain
  • Tightness in the chest

Triggers of Asthma

Common asthma triggers include:-

  • Animals (pet hair or dander)
  • Dust
  • Changes in weather (most often cold weather)
  • Chemicals in the air or in food
  • Exercise
  • Mold
  • Pollen
  • Respiratory infections, such as the common cold
  • Strong emotions (stress)
  • Tobacco smoke

Aspirin and other no steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) provoke asthma in some patients.

Many people with asthma have a personal or family history of allergies, such as hay fever (allergic rhinitis) or eczema. Others have no history of allergies.

Treatment of Asthma

Two basic kinds of medication are used for treating asthma:-

  • Control Drugs to prevent attacks
  • Quick Relief Drugs for use during attacks

Control Drugs control your symptoms if you don’t have Mild Asthma. You must take them every day for them to work. Take them even when you feel okay.

The most common control drugs are:

  • Inhaled corticosteroids (such as Asmanex, Alvesco, Qvar AeroBid, Flovent, Pulmicort) prevent symptoms by helping to keep your airways from swelling up.
  • Long-acting beta-agonist inhalers also help prevent asthma symptoms. Do not take long-acting beta-agonist inhaler drugs alone. These drugs are almost always used together with an inhaled steroid drug. It may be easier to use an inhaler that contains both drugs.

Food helpful for Asthma

People who eat diets higher in Vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, flavonoids, magnesium, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids have lower rates of Asthma. Many of these substances are antioxidants, which protect cells from damage.

Teens with Poor Nutrition were more likely to have Asthma Symptoms. Those who didn’t get enough fruits and foods with Vitamins C and E and Omega-3 Fatty Acids were the most likely to have poor lung function. A 2007 study showed that children who grew up eating a Mediterranean Diet – high in nuts and fruits like grapes, apples, and tomatoes – were less likely to have asthma-like symptoms.

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