By Dr. Nikhil Modi, Pulmonology
What is Asthma?
National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP) defines asthma as a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways in which many cells and cellular elements play a role.
In people who are susceptible to asthma, this inflammation causes intermittent dyspnea (difficulty in breathing), wheezing, coughing, and tightness in the chest. It is basically a hypersensitive reaction of the airways.
Although, asthma is yet not curable, but proper therapy and management help in better quality of life.
What causes Asthma?
The causes of asthma are mostly idiopathic and sometimes it may develop over time.
People with a family history of allergies or asthma are more prone to developing asthma. Many people with asthma also have allergies. This is called allergic asthma.
Occupational asthma is caused by inhaling fumes, gases, dust or other potentially harmful substances while on the job.
Childhood asthma impacts millions of children and their families. In fact, the majority of children who develop asthma do so before the age of five.
If you have asthma your airways are always inflamed. They become even more swollen and the muscles around the airways can tighten when something triggers your symptoms. This makes it difficult for air to move in and out of the lungs, causing symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and/or chest tightness.
Diagnosis of asthma can be confirmed by demonstrating the presence of reversible airway obstruction using a spirometer / peak flow meter.
There is no cure for asthma, but once it is properly diagnosed and a treatment plan is in place you will be able to manage your condition, and your quality of life will improve. Things that help in proper therapy and management-
- Keep prescribed medicines within your reach: The medication that is prescribed must always be carried along wherever you are going. If you are prescribed inhalers, you must ensure the inhaler has sufficient quantity of medicines.
- Get to know your action plan and familiarise yourself with it: The action plan for the therapy is different for different individuals. Familiarise yourself with the names of medicines that have been prescribed to you.
- Identify environmental trigger: Take your time and identify what really “triggers” your asthma attack. It varies from person to person. Common environmental triggers are pollen, dust mites, fungi etc.
- Control pets: Pet tissues like cat dander and dog fur can trigger a response. Thus limiting where the pets go and factors such as keeping them clean can help your cause. Try adopting pets with less fur shedding.
- Control other precipitants: Try to prevent contracting viral infections and irritants such as smoke, dust and chalk dust.
- Stop Smoking: If you are a smoker, never could be a better cause to stop smoking. Smoking tobacco precipitates asthma attacks.
- Medications: Certain medications such as NSAIDs and propranolol maybe contraindicated in asthma.
- Patient education on the pathophysiology of the disease and working of the medication aid. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a pulmonologist and ask a free question.