Asthma occurs when the respiratory tract becomes narrowed and inflamed. This condition causes difficulty breathing, chest pain, coughing, and wheezing (high-pitched voice due to shortness of breath). Asthma can affect anyone, whether it’s children, adults or the elderly. For some people, asthma can disrupt their daily activity.
There is no cure for asthma to date. However, the symptoms are manageable. Asthma conditions can also change over time. Regular checkups are required to observe the progress of symptoms and determine the right treatment to prevent the risk of life-threatening asthma attacks.
Causes of Asthma
The exact cause of asthma is unknown. However, a combination of heredity and environmental factors is thought to be a trigger for a person to develop asthma.
There are also other factors that can trigger asthma symptoms, including:
- Exposure to airborne chemicals, such as pollen, dust, or dander from pets.
- Respiratory infections, such as colds.
- Cold air.
- Polluted air, from vehicles, factories smokes, or cigarette smokes
- Stress and depression.
- Acid reflux disease.
- Certain medications, such as beta blockers, aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.
- Preservatives contained in processed foods.
The following groups of individuals are also at high risk of developing asthma. They are:
- Allergy sufferers, such as food allergies, allergic rhinitis, and atopic dermatitis.
- Active and passive smokers.
- Obese people.
- Workers in agriculture and manufacturing.
- Premature babies (born under 37 weeks) or babies that are born underweight
When to See a Doctor for Asthma?
Consult an allergist and immunologist if you experience possible asthma symptoms.
The immunologist will examine the patient’s medical history and perform a physical test. Through a physical test, the doctor will measure the heart rate and check the patient’s heartbeat using a stethoscope.
The doctor will also check the patient’s lung function through a spirometry test. The patient will be asked to take a deep breath and exhale as hard as possible into the spirometer device. In some cases, a peak flow meter (PFM) device is also used to measure the patient’s speed when exhaling in one breath.
For some conditions, the doctor may conduct additional tests to confirm a diagnosis of asthma. Additional tests include:
1. Allergy test
Allergy tests, such as blood tests or skin prick tests, are done to identify allergens that can trigger asthma.
Scanning tests, such as X-rays and CT scans, are used to detect abnormalities or infections in the respiratory tract or lungs that can lead to respiratory problems.
3. Methacholine test
Methacholine is known as a trigger for asthma. You will experience mild airway constriction when inhaling methacholine. This test is performed if the pulmonary function test shows normal results, yet the doctor still suspects an indication of asthma.
Asthma is a chronic disease with symptoms that can change over time. Consultations with specialist doctors are necessary to provide you with a more accurate diagnosis and recommend the best treatment.
You can use Smarter Health’s free services to get benefits, such as
- Specialist doctor recommendations
- Checking on your selected doctor’s schedule and appointment booking
- Calculate the estimated treatment costs
- Arrange for airport transfers
Symptoms of Asthma
Asthma symptoms vary from person to person. Asthma can occur occasionally (for example, when exercising) or from time to time.The main symptoms of asthma are:
- Shortness of breath
- Wheezing sound when the airways are narrowed
- Chest pain
- Chronic cough, especially at night, when laughing, or when exercising.
- Trouble sleeping
Sometimes, asthma symptoms can worsen over a short period of time. This condition is known as an asthma attack. Asthma attack symptoms include:
- Short and rapid breath
- Increased heartbeat
- Constant chest pain and cough that gets worse
- Shortness of breath when eating or talking
- Bluish lips or fingers
Treatment for Asthma
Treatment for asthma aims to relieve symptoms and prevent symptoms from recurring. The type of treatment is based on the patient’s condition.
The main treatment for asthma patients is to use inhalers. There are three types of inhalers that every asthma patient should always carry:
- Relief inhalers, to relieve strained respiratory muscles.
- Preventive inhalers, to relieve inflammation of the respiratory tract and prevent asthma symptoms from recurring.
- Combination of relief and preventive inhalers, to prevent long-term asthma symptoms. This inhaler is recommended for daily use.
When it comes to first aid for someone who has an asthma attack, the doctor will provide medication that can open the airways and help the patient to breathe again. The types of medications include:
- Relief inhalers and nebulizers. You will have to inhale deeply so that it gets into the lungs.
- Bronchodilators, to relieve tense breathing muscles and lungs.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, to relieve inflammation of the lungs that causes respiratory problems.
For long-term treatment, the doctor will prescribe the following medications to help manage asthma symptoms during daily activities. The medications include:
- Theophylline tablets — to relieve muscle tension around the respiratory tract.
- Inhaled corticosteroids, such as fluticasone, budesonide, and mometasone — to relieve inflammation along the respiratory tract and lungs.
- Beta blockers, such as salmeterol and formoterol — to prevent the risk of severe asthma attacks.
Asthma patients can also try breathing exercises to control the air that enters into and leaves the lungs. Breathing exercises can also help maintain lung function and reduce the risk of developing asthma attacks.
Asthma patients can still carry out daily tasks normally. However, they may need to rely on medications to prevent and relieve symptoms that can appear any time. To manage the symptoms, the doctor will create an asthma management plan. This plan contains information on medications to consume, how to deal with asthma symptoms, and what to do when the patient experiences an asthma attack.
This asthma management plan should be evaluated annually. This evaluation helps adjust the treatment plan for the patient’s latest progress. If the asthma condition worsens, then the evaluation should be done more frequently.
Treatment Costs for Asthma
The treatment cost for asthma depends on the type of test performed and medications prescribed by the doctor.
You can use Smarter Health’s free service to calculate the estimated cost of asthma treatment.
Prevention of Asthma
You cannot completely prevent asthma, as the exact cause is still unknown. However, the following steps can be taken to prevent the risk of developing asthma symptoms. The preventive measures include:
- Consume medications as prescribed by the doctor.
- Avoid environmental factors that can cause respiratory problems.
- Get influenza and pneumonia vaccinations.
- Exercise regularly
- Consume nutritious food sources
- Quit smoking.
- Wear a mask when going outside, especially in cold weather.
- Get regular check-ups to monitor the progress of your condition.