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Asthma: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Asthma
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What is Asthma?

Asthma is a respiratory disorder in which the airways produce mucus and become narrow due to swelling. This is caused by inflammation, which leads to a difficulty in breathing and causes shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, coughing and wheezing.

Asthma causes an average of 2 million emergency visits to the hospital and affects around 25 million people in the U.S. annually (x).

Depending on the severity of the disease, asthma can be just a nuisance or it can prove to be a serious issue that can greatly interfere with daily activities. Moreover, it can prove to be fatal.

Asthma is so far not curable, but the symptoms can be reduced to a great extent. The condition’s symptoms can change over time, so it is important to stay in touch with a medical practitioner to make changes in the treatment as required (x).

Asthma Symptoms

Symptoms of this condition can vary from patient to patient. Some people experience the symptoms only under specific conditions or others may have them all the time.

Some common signs can be:

  • Chest pain
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • A whistling noise when exhaling breath
  • Rapid or slow breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Tightness in the neck

Signs of a Serious Asthma Attack

If you notice any of the following symptoms then seek medical help right away:

  • Pale color of the face, fingernails and lips (x)
  • Movement of nostrils
  • Chest retractions
  • No deflation of the abdomen upon exhaling
  • Rapid movement of ribs and stomach (x)

Most of these symptoms are general. However, if they keep on persisting and worsen, especially at night time, then it is very likely due to asthma. See a medical practitioner right away for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Asthma Symptoms

Asthma Causes

The actual cause of asthma is still unknown, but research has revealed some risk factors that can be the cause of the condition. Some of them are:

Genetics

Asthma tends to run in families, so if any one’s parents had asthma or even eczema, then it is very likely that one will develop it too.

Respiratory Infections

This is especially true during the development stage of the lungs in early childhood. Various respiratory infections have been proven to be the cause of inflammation of the lungs which damages the tissue. This childhood and infancy damage to the lungs can be problematic in the long run.

Premature Birth

An early birth puts the baby more at risk, and a low birth weight and a birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy can also cause asthma and respiratory issues. A ventilator may be necessary to help with breathing in the early days (x).

Environmental Factors

Exposure to irritants, allergens and viral infections because of the environment, especially during childhood and infancy, is linked to an increase in the risk of asthma because the immune system is not fully developed to fight off attacks. Exposure to dust and chemicals can also play a role in triggering an attack.

Female Hormones

Some women may develop asthma after menopause. This is because of the change in levels of female hormones (x).

Bronchiolitis

This is a virus that usually affects young children and babies. It can cause the swelling of the airways and lungs. Bronchiolitis can cause the child to cough incessantly and make it hard to breathe (x).

Smoking

Research proves that smoking around a young child or baby and smoking during pregnancy can increase the risk of the baby developing asthma or other respiratory issues. Smoking can also trigger the attack of asthma in adults (x).

Strong Emotions

A display of strong emotions that can change the breathing pattern may be another cause. Acts like crying, shouting or even laughing can trigger the onset of asthma. A person in panic can also be at a high risk of asthma as he is unable to relax and breathe slowly when needed during an attack. Research shows that strong emotions can also cause rapid breathing, which causes the constriction of the bronchial tubes, making it hard to breathe and increase the symptoms (x).

Asthma Treatment

There is no cure available for this disease so far, but with the help of treatment, the symptoms can be kept under control so one can live a normal life and carry out day to day activities.

Inhalers

These assist breathing. This is the main treatment for an asthma attack. Inhalers may or may not contain corticosteroids. If your condition is severe, then other treatment or medicine may also be necessary to control the symptoms. For this reason, one needs to be in contact with a doctor regularly.

Injections

In severe cases of asthma, injections are given to the patient for the controlling of the painful symptoms.

Some common injections are reslizumab, mepolizuma and omalizumab. Injections are given only when prescribed by a medical practitioner (x).

Medication

Stay in touch with a doctor at all times so they can prescribe the right medication depending upon various factors, such as symptoms, age and asthma triggers (x).

Asthma Prevention

Even though asthma cannot be prevented entirely, various preventive measures can help reduce the risk of an attack and stop it from getting worse. Some things that can be done to help with the prevention are as follows:

Vaccinate Against Flu and Allergies

Asthmatic patients should get themselves vaccinated against influenza. In many countries, the vaccination for influenza is free of cost for asthma patients. Many patients have found that vaccinating against allergies also helps to minimize asthma attacks (x).

Take Preventative Medicine Regularly

To prevent the onset of an attack, take your preventive medicine regularly and also try to avoid all the things that can be possible triggers of the disease.

Stop Smoking

If you have asthma and you smoke, stop smoking right away to prevent the symptoms from worsening. Smoking can affect the medication given. Also be sure to stay away from smoke-filled environments (x).

Recognize Early Symptoms

Asthma attacks never occur out of the blue. There are always some early signs that include fatigue, chest tightness and coughing. Try to keep track of your asthma and whenever you see any early symptoms. Take your medicine right away to prevent the disease from worsening (x).

Asthma Supplements

Butterbur

The roots of butterbur provide excellent allergy relief, pain relief and act as an anti-inflammatory supplement. Talk to your health professional for the right dosage depending on your condition.

Boswellia

This extract comes from the sap or resin of the Boswellia serrata plant. It is very effective for fighting inflammation and preventing the symptoms from worsening.

Bromelain

An enzyme found in pineapple juice, bromelian reduces inflammation and swelling of the sinuses and nose.

Caffeine

Found in coffee, tea and cocoa mostly, caffeine is said to improve the airway function. It acts as a bronchiodilator and it also has the ability to tone down the inflammation which helps reduce the symptoms of an asthma attack (x).

Magnesium

When magnesium is given in the form of a spray, it aids in opening up the bronchial tubes and helps to open the airways if a patient is under a severe attack. Talk to a medical practitioner to find out the correct, safe dosage (x).

Home Remedies for Asthma

  • Take slow and deep breaths
  • Learn and practice relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery meditation to cut down on stress
  • Tea and coffee
  • Sit upright
  • Mustard oil, warmed and massaged on the chest along with camphor oil relieves symptoms (x)
  • Inhale eucalyptus essential oil in steam (x)
  • Drink a teaspoon of honey and cinnamon each in hot water 2 to 3-times a day (x)
  • Keep your home and work space clean of dust and mold (major irritants for asthma sufferers) — vacuum regularly and use pillow and mattress covers to minimize dust mites

The Bottom Line

Asthma is a condition characterized by the inflammation and narrowing of the lungs, resulting in breathing difficulties. This condition impacts millions of Americans and can be fatal. Luckily, there are ways to avoid such an outcome — taking supplements, quitting smoking and living a generally healthy life go a long way in the prevention of this condition.

About the author

Mahnum Shakoor


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