What is Asthma
Asthma is a condition where your airways can narrow, swell, and produce extra mucus. This triggers shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing, and/or coughing.
It can range from being a minor nuisance to being a serious problem that interferes with daily life and activities. It may even lead to life-threatening attacks.
Asthma can be diagnosed at any age. Those who develop asthma as an adult can continue to experience symptoms, whereas those who develop it during childhood or pregnancy may resolve itself in time.
Asthma sufferers have two phases of illness: acute bronchospasm (airway narrowing) and chronic inflammation (airway swelling). Asthmatics are much more sensitive to upper respiratory infections, cold air, exercise, perfumes, dust, pets, and smoke.
You do not have to suffer from daily symptoms of asthma. You can be effectively treated by a qualified physician with a combination of diet/lifestyle changes, medications, and even bronchoscopic procedures. Research is ongoing, and experimental treatment options are also available.
Causes and Triggers of Asthma
Asthma may be caused by genetic (inherited) changes and by different environmental exposures. There are many known triggers including:
About 80% of those with asthma have allergies to substances such as pollen, animal dander, mold, dust mites, and even trees or grass.
Various Foods and Food Additives
Individuals with food allergies may exhibit asthma due to food-induced anaphylaxis. Some of the more common foods are eggs, milk, shellfish, peanuts, wheat, among others. Various sulfites used in food preservation may trigger symptoms in sensitive individuals.
Smoking and Secondhand Smoke
Smokers are more likely to get asthma. Patients who already have asthma and smoke, this will make symptoms much worse.
Pollution and Other Airborne Irritants
Air pollution, cleaning agents, smoke from burning wood, factory dust particles, and even strong perfumes can trigger an attack.
Sinusitis and Other Respiratory Infections
When sinuses become inflamed, post nasal drip may lead to inflammation in the lungs as well, and may exacerbate the condition.
Many people with asthma experience a narrowing of the airways with strenuous exercise. For these individuals, it helps to do a slow warm up before exercise.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD is extremely common among sufferers. If stomach acid refluxes into the esophagus and inadvertently enters the lung, the irritation and resultant inflammation can trigger an attack.
A number of people with asthma are sensitive to anti-inflammatory drugs and beta-blockers. Some are very sensitive to aspirin. This information should be documented and carried with you on your person.
Abrupt changes in weather, including cold air, sudden changes in temperature, barometric pressure, and humidity can be a trigger.
Anxiety, stress, and anger can trigger asthma. On occasion, even laughing has been known to be a trigger.
Symptoms of Asthma
Some individuals experience asthma symptoms every day, while others may only exhibit symptoms at the onset of an attack. The various symptoms often range from mild to severe and vary among individuals.
The symptoms of asthma can include any one or more of the following:
- Shortness of Breath
- Chest Pain or Tightness
- Trouble Sleeping
- Family history of asthma
- Obesity or being overweight
- Smoke exposure
- Kidney failure
- Your mother smoked while pregnant
- Exposure to pollution
- Exposure to occupational triggers