When it comes to asthma, it is described as an inflammatory condition that affects the airways which triggers symptoms such as wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing.
Causes of asthma and who are at risk
Asthma is instigated by airway inflammation. Once an attack occurs, the muscles that surround the airway become constricted as well as the air passage lining. This minimizes the amount of air that passes via the airways and can even result to the distinctive wheezing sound.
Individuals with asthma can experience wheezing attacks that are separated by periods that are free from any symptoms. Some individuals have long-term shortness of breath that can be accompanied by episodes of increasing shortness of breath. Among others, the cough can be a main symptom. The asthma attacks can last for minutes up to days and can be life-threatening if the airflow is constricted severely.
What are the symptoms?
The indicative signs and symptoms of asthma include the following:
- Shortness of breath that worsens with activity or exercise
- Cough with or without sputum production
- Intercostal retractions (pulling of the skin in between the ribs while breathing)
What are the emergency symptoms?
- Rapid pulse rate
- Extreme difficulty breathing
- Bluish-tinge on the face and lips
- Severe anxiety due to shortness of breath
- Diminished level of alertness such as confusion or severe drowsiness during an asthma attack
When to consult a doctor
A doctor should be consulted if the individual experiences mild asthma symptoms. If there is moderate shortness of breath, symptoms seem to worsen or do not improve with treatment or an attack requires more than the recommended in the given prescription, a doctor should be consulted.
It is best to bring the individual to the nearest emergency department for severe shortness of breath, if drowsiness or confusion develops or there is severe chest pain.
The treatment for asthma is focused on avoidance of all the known allergens and respiratory irritants as well as controlling the symptoms and airway inflammation with the help of medications. The main objective includes restoration of normal airway function and prevention of severe acute attacks.
The medications for asthma are either administered by inhalation, parenterally or orally. The inhaled medications have been the preferred route of administration since it allowed direct delivery of the drug into the airways in small dosages and only causes fewer side effects. When given via inhalation, bronchodilators have a faster onset and also provide better protection from bronchoconstriction.
Those who have mild asthma can be given quick relief medications as needed. Those who suffer from persistent asthma must utilize preventive medications regularly to prevent the asthma attacks. The medication is added in a step-up progression which depends on the severity as well as frequency of the attacks. It is vital to step-down the treatment once good control is achieved.