Asthma – Why can’t I breathe?
Asthma is one of the most prevalent respiratory diseases in the world. According to reports, over 339 million people have a form of asthma.
Medically speaking, asthma is an inflammatory disease that affects the airways, leading to difficulty breathing, wheezing, and other respiratory symptoms.
The mechanisms involved in asthma are extremely complex and involve a hypersensitivity immune reaction that recruits inflammatory cells to the airways.
In this article, we will address the common causes of asthma, its signs and symptoms, and potential treatment options.
Causes of asthma
Similar to other inflammatory conditions with autoimmune components, the exact causes of asthma are not clear yet.
Scientists believe that this disease results from a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental triggers.
Genetics – having a close relative with asthma increases your risk of getting the disease.
Recurrent viral infections – viral infections are highly suspected to be the trigger of asthma, especially during childhood.
Atopia – this concept refers to the predisposition to developing allergic/immune diseases, such as asthma, allergic rhinitis, and nasal polyposis.
In summary, your risk of developing asthma increases if you have one or more of the factors listed above.
Signs and symptoms of asthma
Asthmatic patients present symptoms in an episodic manner. In other words, you could be symptom-free for weeks before experiencing a severe episode.
Moreover, the severity of symptoms varies from one patient to another. For instance, one patient might experience a mild episode of dyspnea (i.e., shortness of breath) once every month, whereas the second patient suffers from constant dyspnea.
Every once in a while, patients experience severe symptoms known as asthma exacerbation.
Here are the common signs and symptoms of asthma:
- Chest pain
- Apnea (i.e., arrested breathing)
In practice, your doctor will use information about the frequency and severity of your symptoms to put you in one of the four categories of asthma. According to your classification, you can expect a different therapeutic approach.
If you experience any severe or unusual symptoms of asthma, contact your physician immediately or head to the nearest hospital for medical care.
The primary goal of asthma therapy is to reverse the mechanisms that lead to this condition. This approach demonstrates the beauty of modern medicine and the importance of understanding the underlying mechanisms that cause disease.
Generally speaking, asthma has three pillars:
- Hyperreactive airways (airway obstruction)
To reverse these processes, your doctor may prescribe one or more of the following medications:
- Corticosteroids – the drugs will temper down inflammation and edema.
- Short-acting beta-receptor agonists – these drugs will increase the diameter of the airways, allowing air to flow more freely.
- Long-acting beta-receptor agonists – they prevent future asthma exacerbation by expanding the diameter of the airways.
Asthma is a common respiratory condition that presents with shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing.
We hope that this article simplified the complex topic of asthma.