Asthma attacks are widespread among children and can lead to several unfavorable outcomes ranging from mild to severe or even death.
The identification of patients that are at high risk of developing asthma rise an opportunity to prevent such condition and draw better outcomes for them.
How many people it can affect?
Asthma is a prevalent condition worldwide. It affects approximately 300 million people and kills 250,000 annually throughout the world, according to the World Health Organization; likewise, in the United States affects nearly 7,5% of the population. Importantly, it happens to be the most common chronic condition in childhood affecting 7 million US children.
In fact, due to the significant burden of this condition on the healthcare system, economy, and the overall society. A global initiative for asthma (GINA) is in charge of widespread education about it, for better management, and to diminish its complications.
Let’s begin defining asthma, right?
The supreme authority on this matter, the National Institute of Health Guidelines on Asthma, defines it as chronic inflammation of the bronchial tubes in which particular cells play a significant role such as mast cell, eosinophil, T cell, among others. In susceptible individuals, the inflammation causes recurrent episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing, particularly at night. This inflammation could develop from multiples triggers.
More precisely, what occurs in asthma is an airway inflammation in the lungs, which obstructs the free-pass of air through a now thin passage; therefore, no effective breathing of oxygen comes to pass. The exact origin of this condition is not known yet. For now, It is a very complex process with both inner-and-external to the body factors prompting it.
What is the main cause of asthma?
Asthma tends to begin early in life from 4 to 8 years; it has some predictive inner factors as atopic disease, recurrent wheezing, and parental history of asthma. The external factors include allergic reactions or respiratory infections. However, many other possible asthma triggers are also prevalent such as environmental allergens (e.g., house dust mite, pollens, cockroach), viral lung infections (respiratory infections in general), exercise, chronic sinusitis, allergy to conventional medications such as over the counter pain killers, obesity, gastric reflux disease, tobacco smoke, irritants as households’ sprays, emotional factors or stress, among others.
Genetics play a significant role. If your parent has an asthma diagnosis, substantially increases your chances of having it. Not only that, if both of them have this condition, the chance doubles. Furthermore, an increase in the diversity of the healthy bacteria residing within the patient’s bronchial tubes is another factor concerning the illness. So, as science progresses, it is possible to keep finding more components related to the disease.
What seems to be clear by now with this condition is that for having it, a mixture of genetic predisposition and exposure to triggers exists. And that usually are very allergic people with chronic inflammation of the lower airways in the lungs. Approximately 8 of every ten children with asthma have an allergy. Therefore allergic asthma by a wide array of allergens is one of the most common causes of airway obstruction.
How is categorized?
The illness’s inflammation categories include acute, sub-acute, and chronic types. All these types of inflammation contribute differently to asthma symptoms. The prevention of severe asthma episodes is hard, and its reversion is only possible by specific medication; however, prevention of chronic inflammation is possible and a must, due to its well-known complications in the long-run.
Acute asthma, which is also known as exacerbations or attacks, can be fatal. When the patients are out of treatment, the asthma attacks become more frequent and severe. But even if controlled, no asthma patient is safe. Therefore, any individual should have an asthma action plan. This presentation of the disease display the most bothersome symptoms. Also, asthma attacks threaten life by a reduction of lung functions, which impossibilities the patients to get oxygen for their tissues. These cases usually have a substantial impairment in lung function with a reduction of the peak flow meter.
When the disease is controlled?
The proper term of “control” in this condition has a place when asthma management reduces or totally removes airflow obstruction symptoms. It has two main focus, symptoms, and risk factors for not desirable outcomes.
The level of control would depend on four questions: daytime symptoms more than twice a week? There is any night walking due to asthma (nocturnal asthma)? Did the patient need a reliever more than twice a week? And, any activity limitation due to asthma? If the response to all these questions is no, then the disease is thought to be on control. If the answer to 1 or 2 of the items is yes, then it is partly under control. And, if the person answers yes in 3 or 4 questions, then it is out of control.
To not have risk factors include having a healthy lung, which is why it needs continuous assessment with lung exams. The possible risk factors include medication, lung disease, or exposure to nocive particles or allergens in the work environment. The latter could cause an allergic reaction or lung affection (occupational asthma) that could trigger a worse asthma episode.
What are the asthma symptoms?
The symptoms of asthma are prone to vary; they are very distressful and can even compromise life. Physician attention becomes mandatory for these patients. It is a desperate sensation of lack of air and chest tightness in usually very allergic children or adults. Even though this disease mostly debuts in childhood. It can also make an unusual appearance in adulthood becoming a chronic disease that, despite not having a cure, with proper treatment, can be controlled.
Regarding the presentation, it has a ratio 2:1 of boys and girls in childhood with the predomination of the former. However, luckily for boys, symptoms tend to fade in adolescence. In contrast, in girls, the condition tends to appear more in the youth and later in late adulthood, finally converting the ratio in a 1:1 between them.
Typical symptoms for this condition are wheeze, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and cough. People would tend to present more than one of those symptoms. They will vary their intensity over time. However, the symptoms mostly worsen or appear during the night. You all should recall that symptoms could have acute triggers such as the allergens and exercise; this includes even the simpler ones as cold air, therefore, if a person is continuously in plain sight to any stimulus or has poor inhaled treatment. The symptoms could be triggered.
Asthma in smokers
Smoking is a very-known risk factor for developing asthma, directly or indirectly. Cigarette smoke can evoke allergic reactions and common asthma symptoms. In light of this, patient education is core to protecting asthma sufferers from a severe asthma attack.
However, in older patients smoking cigarettes is also in high association with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. These two conditions could overlap, particularly in the elderly. The differentiation is mostly through medical records, and the physician must have a closer look because when together, they are way more dangerous. For this type of case, inhaled corticosteroids are a recommendation for the patient to diminish airway inflammation.
Do you are experiencing only a cough?
When a cough is the only asthma symptom, the probabilities that the asthma trigger has its location in the upper section of the body are high. The most common diseases causing involved are post-nasal drip, chronic sinusitis, gastric reflux, or some other rarer lung conditions.
It could be prevented? Early diagnosis!
National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP) guidelines specify the parameters for diagnosing asthma very clearly. It includes procedures such as lung function tests with exclusive features, assessing the level of oxygen within the blood, chest radiograph, or exercise spirometry in people where exercise-induced asthma is a suspicion. Despite this, usually, an experienced physician with just asking the right questions and physical assessment of a patient in respiratory distress or wheezing (a typical asthma attack) would score a correct diagnosis. The classification of asthma symptoms includes mild, moderate, severe, and imminent respiratory arrest asthma (silent chest). If there isn’t a constant medical control, asthma can convert in a real threat to life.
More precisely, for thinking in diagnosing this condition. The medical history with a focus on symptoms and some evidence of a reduction in lung function are essential. These steps allow for an accurate diagnosis of asthma. After the patient begins to use medications, making a diagnosis is way more complicated. So careful assessment and secureness by your physician are critical.
What is the current asthma treatment?
Fortunately for us, this condition has an effective treatment. Many people can accomplish overall control of their symptoms. They would be able to elude discomforting symptoms throughout the whole day, diminish night symptoms, have a productive life with nearly no limitations, conserve lung capabilities, and reduce the chances of a possible severe asthma attack.
Treatment for all asthma patients emphasizes in preventing the recurrence of symptoms, minimize acute episodes, and prevent psychological impairment by guaranteeing a healthy or near-normal lifestyle for the people. A routine review of chronic asthma should take place once a year. Typically, your physician would assess symptoms control over the last four weeks. And identify a modification in any risk factor such as allergy, that can foresee poor outcomes. The assessment of the lung by spirometry should also be done once a year after the diagnosis.
Treatment with medication includes two types of inhalers. These comprise one for the maintenance of the symptoms, and others to mitigate acute asthma attack episodes, such as corticosteroids and short-acting bronchodilators correspondingly. This inhaler treatment requires to get directly into the lungs, for what appropriate patient training is needed. In light of this, it is essential to always re-check the inhaler-technique. Not having a good inhalation technique could carry complications as oral candidiasis with inhaled corticosteroids.
Also, it is core to remember that usually, these are very allergic individuals. So environmental exposure of them to a possible allergen (pollen, animals, dust mite) should be in constant surveillance for avoiding them.
How Could I know if someone has it?
There is a variability of presentation and harm that this disease could carry in the short and long term to a patient. There is nothing better than to feel calm and safe. Please don’t hesitate to use this asthma symptoms checker. It pretends to determine the probabilities on you having this diagnosis.