What is Asthma? Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

 , NDTV  |  Updated: June 09, 2016 15:10 IST

What is Asthma? Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) there are close to 300 million people suffering from asthma across the globe. It is also one of the most common non-communicable diseases among children and remains highly un-diagnosed and un-treated. "Asthma is a major non-communicable disease characterized by recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing, which vary in severity and frequency from person to person. Symptoms may occur several times in a day or week in affected individuals, and for some people become worse during physical activity or at night," World Health Organisation.

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What is Asthma?

Asthma is a lung disorder that obstructs breathing. It is a condition wherein a person experiences chronic inflammation leading to narrowing of the airway that causes recurrent asthma attacks. In such circumstances air flow to lungs is obstructed. Some of the common symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing and tightness in chest. It is also known as bronchial asthma or reactive airway disease. The exact cause of asthma is still undiscovered however in most cases it is linked to hereditary as well as environmental factors.

According Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every twelve Americans suffers from Asthma. The global instances of asthma are also on a steady rise. The CDC also found the obesity rate among adults with asthma to be at almost 39% while the obesity rate among adults without asthma at almost 27%. Before we could talk of the various ways in which one can tackle asthma, let's take a look at a few important facts associated with the condition.


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The Triggers

It is extremely important that one identifies what triggers asthma attacks and keep a check on them. These triggers may vary from person to person and may include the following.

1. Indoor elements: Mold, dust mites, cockroaches, pet dander

2. Outdoor agents: Air pollution, smog, cigarette, smoke, paint fumes, sprays, pollen, industrial dust, chemicals (Air Pollution in Indian Cities Can Trigger Asthma)

3. Food allergens: Peanuts, eggs, fish, milk, sulphites and food preservatives (food allergies basically)

4. Non-allergic triggers:  Physical exercise, anxiety, anger

5. Others: Respiratory infections, medications like beta blockers, aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.

It is important to understand the fact that subtle symptoms of asthma can develop right during childhood and if left unchecked can progress into severe condition. Asthma, in general, if left untreated can turn out to be life threatening. It usually develops in people with allergies and family history.

When to Seek Professional Help?

-You feel that your breathlessness is meddling with your daily activities

-Your nails and lips turn blue with breathlessness and wheezing

-Coughing at night meddles with sleep

-Recurrent breathlessness

-Unexplained fatigue

-Inhaler doesn't help

Battling Asthma

Asthma is a long-life condition which is non-curable. However, with proper medication, small tweaks in your lifestyle, diet and environment one can keep it under control and prevent it from getting worse. As discussed earlier, identifying and eliminating triggers & allergens is extremely crucial to battle the condition. Make sure that your surroundings are free from dust, mold, pollen and other airborne allergens. Food allergies should also be kept in check. Maintain healthy weight, eat healthy food, avoid smoking and make sure that you decontaminate and clean your house on a regular basis. Asthma worsens by cold or dry air, keep a check on the humidity levels as well as the temperature around you.

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Once you approach a medical professional, your lung's functioning will be accessed with the help of spirometry.  One can also take help of peak flow meter to track the functioning of lungs. The device measures the intensity at which your lungs pump air. Apart from these, allergy shots can help in desensitizing towards allergens. Inhaled corticosteroids can be used as a part of long term treatment.

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