Asthma Overview – Taking Control of This Chronic Condition Today

Asthma is a serious health concern that afflicts millions of individuals around the world, but this incurable health concern can be effectively managed with the help of modern medicine and a few key lifestyle changes.

What is asthma?

According to the Mayo Clinic, asthma is a condition in which your airways narrow and swell and produce extra mucus. The combination of tightened airways throughout the lungs and the additional mucus production create labored breathing and a potentially dangerous inability to effectively expel built-up carbon dioxide in the body. Asthma is sometimes referred to as “reactive airway disease” because the onset is often related to an external trigger of some sort. Asthma is incurable, yet it can be managed by following a few key steps. Though patients will want to consult with a healthcare professional before making any type of self-diagnosis, there are some basic symptoms that point to asthma in the majority of individuals.

What are the general symptoms of asthma?

Asthmatics are quick to point out that not all asthma sufferers are the same. While some experience mild, infrequent wheezing when exposed to irritants, others must work quite hard to manage their more severe cases of asthma. Regardless of the severity of the condition, the followin are five fundamental symptoms that generally uncover an asthma diagnosis:

What Triggers Asthma?

For most individuals, asthma is triggered by one of three main influencers:

The first is exercise or general physical exertion. If an individual feels a tightening of the chest, shortness of breath, and/or feels a wheezing sensation after the cool down period of the exercise routine, this can indicate asthma. Those who live in colder, dryer climates may feel this more acutely, as the lack of humidity in the cold air exacerbates the symptoms of asthma. Prolonged bouts of coughing after a jog, swim, or other period of exercise may point to asthma. It isn’t normal for most individuals to cough excessively after working out.

The second general asthma trigger revolves around occupational irritants. Those who are exposed to repetitive doses of a variety of irritants may negatively impact their ability to cope with asthmatic symptoms. Dust, chemical fumes, gases, and a variety of naturally-occurring substances can trigger labored breathing, chest pains, and other symptoms of asthma. This is one trigger that can be more difficult to manage than the others, as the workplace environment is often one that is not controllable as an employee. Patients can talk to their employer about modifying work duties or switching physical locations if the asthma triggers continue.

Asthma is often triggered by a combination of these factors, and it can then be exacerbated by general illness, outdoor temperatures, and level of physical activity.

What are the dangers of failing to manage asthma?

The final trigger that tends to worsen asthma symptoms is general allergies. Those who are allergic to irritants like pet dander, pollen, dust mites, or cockroaches (yes – cockroach feces are a major irritant to a share of the population), tend to suffer from an increased risk of worsening existing asthma side-effects. Flare ups can occur quickly, so it is important that asthma sufferers understand the environment in which they live, work, and play, in order to keep asthma symptoms under control.

Which risk factors increase the chances of developing asthma?

Once an individual receives an official asthma diagnosis from their doctor it is vital that the patient follow their own asthma care plan at all times. Failing to do so can cause significant harm to the body, and in some cases it can even lead to death if the condition isn’t addressed appropriately. A number of dangers exist if asthma is left untreated, including:

How does a physician test for asthma?

Before an official diagnosis is made, a physician will first attempt to rule out asthma by conducting a full physical exam. The goal is to identify a respiratory infection, pulmonary condition, allergic reaction, or other physical ailment that may cause the same side effects as asthma. A doctor will generally conduct one of several available tests that measure lung function, including:

Once a diagnosis is made, a physician will generally divide patients up into four categories – mild intermittent, mild persistent, moderate persistent, and severe persistent.

How is asthma treated?

Once an asthma diagnosis is made by a physician, a corresponding asthma management plan will be created. This guide to asthma management must be adhered to closely, and the patient will have to act as a committed partner to ensure that the symptoms of this condition are kept at bay. Treatments are general broken up into three main areas – prescription drug therapy, short-term medications for outbreaks, and lifestyle changes, though there are some surgical options available as well. The following treatment options are commonly seen today:

What lifestyle or home remedies can help minimize the effects of asthma?

Asthma is often well-regulated through the use of prescription medicines, allergy treatments, and over the counter antihistamines, but there are several other non-medicinal options that can help to keep asthma symptoms at bay, too. The following are several key ways to minimize asthma flare ups without having to use medicine:

Asthma is a serious disease that must be managed appropriately in order to prevent long-term damage to the respiratory system. While not all asthma cases are the same in terms of severity, each should be accompanied by a doctor-prescribed asthma management plan that details specific activities and medications that will help each patient to thrive and manage their individual affliction. Keeping allergies in check, occupational hazards at bay, and the home air clean and filtered will go a long way toward keeping asthma symptoms within tolerable levels.

See below for more quality resources related to asthma:

http://www.asthma.com/about-asthma.html

http://www.webmd.com/asthma/default.htm

http://www.cdc.gov/asthma/default.htm

References:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/asthma/basics/definition/CON-20026992

http://www.webmd.com/asthma/default.htm

http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/asthma/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0015659/

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/info/asthma/

http://www.cdc.gov/asthma/default.htm

http://www.asthma.com/about-asthma.html

http://www.aaaai.org/about-the-aaaai/newsroom/asthma-statistics.aspx