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An introduction to asthma symptoms and treatment

Written byNikhil Ambatkar

Last updated on : 21 Mar, 2024

Read time : 7 min

Asthma is a long-term condition mainly affecting children and is also observed in adults. It is characterised by the narrowing and tightening of the lung muscles because of inflammation caused by triggers. Common asthma symptoms include wheezing, cough, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. These symptoms are triggered by allergens or irritants and are intermittent, and also may be experienced at night. The asthma triggers may be subjective. But some common triggers reported by World Health Organisation (WHO) include dust, smoke, pet hair, perfumes, fumes, strong soaps, and some viral infections (colds).

Asthma types

There are different types of asthma, and the most common type is allergic asthma, found in 60% of asthma patients. Some specific types of asthma are 

1. Allergic asthma

Allergen triggers this common type of asthma. These allergens include pet dander from animals like cats and dogs, food, mould, and pollen dust.

2. Non-allergic asthma

This type of asthma is triggered by irritants from the environment, like the burning of wood, cigarette smoke, air pollution, cold air, viral illness, household cleaning products, and perfumes.

3. Exercise-induced bronchial asthma

When engaging in physical activity, exercise-induced bronchial asthma often strikes in a matter of minutes, narrowing the airways. Up to 90% of people with asthma also experience exercise-induced bronchial asthma.

Causes of Asthma

Asthma is especially observed in children, but many people do not develop symptoms until they are adults. There is no single cause for asthma, and it may cause or triggered by a combination of factors which are as follows.

1. Genetics: If you have a family history of asthma, you will likely suffer from it. So it is essential to be aware of your family of such kind of conditions.

2. Viral infection history: Those with severe viral illnesses during their younger years, like respiratory syncytial virus infection (RSV), tend to be more prone to asthma than others.

3. Other medical conditions: People with other medical conditions like eczema and rhinitis are more susceptible to asthma.

4. Early life events: Those who experienced low birth weight, premature birth, and exposure to tobacco smoke and other air pollution during their earlier years are more likely to suffer from asthma.

5. Environment: Environmental factors like house dust mites, moulds, and occupational exposure to chemicals, fumes, or dust increase the risk of asthma.

6. Medication: Certain medications like aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) also may act as a trigger.

Signs and Symptoms of Asthma 

The most common asthma symptom is wheezing, a whistling or squealing sound that occurs when you breathe. Other asthma symptoms in adults and children include shortness of breath, coughing, especially at night, tight chest pain, chest pain, trouble sleeping, rapid breathing, difficulty talking, and anxiousness or panic.

Some people have intermittency in the symptoms, while some experience the symptoms throughout the day. Although asthma can be managed with awareness, some unknown factors may flare up asthma. Some common signs include coughing, wheezing, and chest pain.

Classification of Asthma

Based on the symptoms, asthma can be classified into four general categories 

  1. The first category is mild intermittent, with symptoms appearing up to two days or nights a week.
  2. The second category is mild persistent, with symptoms appearing more than twice a week.
  3. The third category is moderate persistent, with symptoms appearing once a day and more than one night a week.
  4. The fourth category is severe persistent, in which symptoms appear throughout the day on most days.

Diagnosis

There is no single test or exam to determine whether you or your child have asthma, but the doctors assess several factors to confirm its diagnosis. These tests include

1. Physical examination  

Doctors perform a physical exam to rule out other medical conditions like respiratory infection or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Doctors may ask a few questions about signs and symptoms.

2. Lung function tests 

Your doctor may recommend different lung function tests to confirm the diagnosis. Lung function tests are done before and after taking medication to open your airways, called a bronchodilator. If your lung function improves with a bronchodilator, you likely have asthma. These tests include 

Spirometry test estimates bronchial constriction by checking how much air you can exhale after taking a deep breath and how quickly you can exhale.

A peak flow test is performed using a peak flow meter. It measures how much you can exhale. Lower peak flow values than usual are a sign your lungs are not working well. Your doctor will give instructions on monitoring and managing low peak flow values.

There are some additional tests that help in the diagnosis. These tests include 

  • Methacholine challenge: Methacholine is a known trigger for the confirmed asthma diagnosis. Doctors give methacholine to suspected patients, and if it triggers asthma symptoms, that patient is more likely to have asthma. 
  • Imaging studies: A chest X-ray can help identify structural abnormalities or diseases (such as infections) that may cause or worsen breathing problems.

3. Allergy tests

Allergy tests can be done through a skin test or a blood test. They’ll tell you if you’re allergic to pets, dust, mould, or pollen. If allergy triggers are identified, your doctor may recommend an allergy shot.

Asthma treatment

Treatments for asthma have four primary categories:

  • Quick-relief medications like bronchodilators.
  • Long-term control medications like anti-inflammatories, anticholinergics, and long-acting bronchodilators.
  • A combination of quick-relief and long-term control medications. The most current asthma clinical guidelines, released in 2020 by the NAEPP, recommend this treatment. 
  • Biologics, which are given by injection or infusion usually only for severe forms of asthma.

Conclusion 

Asthma is a chronic condition affecting lung airways, making it for you to breathe. It can be experienced differently by both adults and children, from mild to severe. Fortunately, there are various medications for its treatment, the most common being bronchodilators. These can be used for both short-term (during an attack) and long-term (for symptom management) purposes. You can get free teleconsultation once you order medicine from our expert doctors on our online pharmacy– Truemeds, or you can also download our Truemeds app. You can avail of branded and generic medicines by uploading your prescription on Truemeds. When placing an order for medicines online, you may save more money by selecting alternative or generic medicine advised by Truemed’s expert doctors. You can save up to 72% on your purchase and get free home delivery* pan India.

Frequently asked questions

What are the 5 symptoms of asthma?

Symptoms of asthma include shortness of breath, coughing, especially at night, tightness in the chest, chest pain, trouble sleeping because of coughing, rapid breathing, difficulty talking, and anxiousness or panic.

What is the cause of asthma?

There is no exact cause of asthma, but several factors like genetic, environmental, and other medical conditions cause it.

What are the 3 types of asthma?

3 types of asthma includes allergic asthma, non-allergic asthma, and exercise-induced bronchial asthma.

What is the best treatment for asthma?

Quick-relief medications like bronchodilators help to relieve the symptoms immediately and help the patient to buy some to visit a healthcare professional.

What should I avoid if I have asthma?

Try to remain in a triggerless environment; if you can’t avoid it, try not to contact the triggers directly.

What is the exact asthma cure?

There is no exact asthma cure, but it can be managed via different medications, bronchodilators, allergic anti-inflammatories, and non-allergic anti-inflammatories that relieve the symptoms to the minimum level.

Disclaimer- The information given in this article is true to our best knowledge. Still, we recommend that you consult your healthcare professional before taking any medication mentioned in this article.

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Disclaimer

Our healthcare experts have carefully reviewed and compiled the information presented here to ensure accuracy and trustworthiness. It is important to note that this information serves as a general overview of the topic and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, prevent, or cure any health problem. This page does not establish a doctor-patient relationship, nor does it replace the advice or consultation of a registered medical practitioner. We recommend seeking guidance from your registered medical practitioner for any questions or concerns regarding your medical condition.

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