What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chromic hypersensitive condition which affects the respiratory system. It is characterised by recurrent bouts of illness which include frequent asthmatic attacks.

The person with asthma will complain of breathing difficulties which are usually caused by a narrowing of the airways. The airways consist of the bronchi and bronchioles which are to be found in the lungs.

Asthma affects all age groups except for small babies. It often starts in early childhood, and can even develop in later years. When children are affected by asthma, it has been discovered that boys are usually more affected, however in adulthood both sexes are affected equally.

The main symptoms of asthma are wheezing and breathlessness. The wheezing is usually accompanied by a cough which often becomes worse during the night. The extent of the asthma attack is dependent on how the bronchi are affected by narrowing.

If severely restricted, the attack becomes severe with associated shallow rapid breathing. The pulse rate accelerates, and in an extremely severe case, the person’s skin and lips may take on a bluish tinge and they will not be able to speak. This is known as cyanosis.

This type of attack is classed as an emergency attack especially if the person does not respond to front line medication. There is a possibility their condition can deteriorate so quickly they may die.

If someone has a prolonged attack of asthma or they suffer from them repeatedly within a short period of time, it is known as “Status Asthmaticus”. Again this is a very serious condition and can lead to the death of the person due to exhaustion and respiratory failure.

Though asthma is one of the fastest growing diseases of the western world, it is also probably one of the better controlled in most people. Medications available for asthmatics are varied and usually work very well. However one of the better treatments for asthma is prevention and the key to this is for people to manage their asthma effectively.

One of the best ways of doing this is to avoid the substance or allergen that triggers the asthma attack. This can include anything from pet hair to dust mites or even pollen, so obviously it can often be quite difficult to do this.

Drugs used in the management of asthma come in several different varieties, but the two most common ones are bronchodilators which dilate the airways and make the passage of oxygen into the body much easier and anti inflammatory drugs which are usually inhaled.

Most drugs used in the management of asthma are inhaled as this has been discovered to be a very effective way of controlling it. However if a person is in status Asthmaticus, then they would not be as effective as they should be. The person would need to be admitted to hospital for more intensive treatment.