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Asthma: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Asthma is a chronic disease involving the airways of the lungs. These airways or the bronchiole tubes allow air to come in and out of the lungs.Asthma causes chronic inflammation in the airways making them narrow and making it more difficult to breathe, says Mayo Clinic.

Asthma attacks are triggered by allergens in the environment, which in turn trigger immune cells to generate inflammation in the lungs which can make them even narrower and potentially life-threatening. Let's take a look at the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of asthma.

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Asthma: Causes 

Asthma is a chronic condition in which the airways that carry air to the lungs are inflamed and narrowed. Inflamed airways are very sensitive and they tend to react to environmental 'triggers'.

When the airways react to the triggers, they swell and narrow even more and also produce extra mucus- all of which makes it harder for the air to flow to the lungs. The muscles around the airways also tighten which further restricts the airflow.

According to the US NIH, asthma triggers are different from person to person and can include airborne substances such as pollens, dust mites, mold spores, pet dander or waste particles of insects. Respiratory infections such as common cold, exercise-induced asthma, cold air, air pollution irritants such as smoke can also act as triggers.

Stressful and anxiety, sulfites and preservatives added in food like fried potatoes, cold drinks, beer, etc condition of GERD can also trigger your asthma.

Asthma: Signs and Symptoms

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, early signs and symptoms of asthma include:

  • Wheezing

  • Coughing, especially at night

  • Tightness in chest

  • Shortness of breath

  • Rapid breathing

  • Feeling tired frequently while exercising

  • Anxious or moody

  • Signs of cold like sneezing, coughing, runny nose

  • Nasal congestion

  • Sore throat

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Pale sweaty face

Asthma: Diagnosis 

According to the AAFA, diagnosis for asthma may involve physical examination by the doctor wherein he may ask questions about your signs and symptoms or any other health conditions.

The doctors may want to take certain tests for lung functions. You may be given a lung or pulmonary test to determine how much air moves in and out of your lungs as you breathe. Such tests may include:

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  • Spirometry estimates the narrowing of the bronchiole tubes to check how much air can you exhale after a deep breath or how fast can you breathe out.

  • Peak flow test uses a peak flow meter that measures how hard can you breathe out. Lower than normal readings may be a sign that your lungs may not be working as well and your asthma may be getting worse.

  • Lung function tests are often taken before and after a medication called a bronchodilator to open your airways. If your tests improve after the medication, it can indicate have asthma.

  • You may also be diagnosed with the help of imaging tests. A chest X-ray or CT scan of your lungs and nose cavities helps identify any structural abnormalities or diseases that can aggravate the asthma condition.

  • Allergy test can be taken with a help of blood test or skin test which can identify the allergy to pets, dust, pollens, mold. If the allergies are identified, the doctors can recommend allergen immunotherapy.

Asthma: Treatment 

According to Mayo Clinic, the treatment of asthma includes the following options.

  • Treatment generally involves learning to identify your triggers and taking steps to avoid them, tracking your breathing to make sure the medications are keeping your asthma symptoms under control.

  • In case of an asthma flare-up, you may require to use an asthma inhaler.

  • Preventive long-term control medications may reduce inflammation that results in symptoms. Quick-relief inhalers open the swollen airways that limit breathing.

  • Few allergy medications may reduce asthma symptoms that are triggered by allergens. Allergen shots reduce the reaction of your immune system to certain allergens.

  • Long-term asthma control medications are taken daily to keep the asthma under control on a daily basis and make it less likely you will have an asthma attack. These medicines include inhaled corticosteroids, leukotriene modifiers, long acting beta-agonists and theophylline.

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Topics:  Asthma   Asthma Causes   asthma symptoms 

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