Asthma is a chronic disease that primarily affects the lungs and makes breathing difficult for the patients. It is an inflammatory disease in which the airways to the lungs, i.e. the bronchial tubes swell and become narrow. As per medical experts, the condition hinders the movement of air in and out of the lungs and can trigger shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing. In more severe cases, it can even make activities like talking difficult.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), asthma is characterized by recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing. However, these attacks may vary from person to person in terms of frequency and severity. A report by WHO asserts that asthma is the most common chronic disease amongst the children (worldwide) and nearly 235 million people around the world are living with the lung condition. Furthermore, the condition is prevalent in all the countries irrespective of their development levels.
What is an asthma attack?
An asthma attack is defined as the sudden worsening of asthma symptoms. It is an adverse physical condition during which the bronchial tubes in the lungs get swollen. It makes the airways narrow that eventually reduces the flow of air in and out the lungs. The attack can be a terrifying and highly troublesome experience and may prove to be fatal in extreme cases. Some people may experience infrequent asthma attacks, especially while doing physical activities like exercising or running. This is commonly known as exercise-induced asthma.
Symptoms of Asthma
The symptoms, severity, and frequency of the symptoms associated with asthma typically varies from person to person. However, some common symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath; breathing difficulties
- Tightness or pain in the chest
- Sleeplessness or troubled sleep due to coughing and wheezing
- A whistling sound when exhaling air
- Worsening of coughing and wheezing attacks during cold and flu
In some cases, the signs and symptoms of asthma are more frequent and people may experience rapid worsening of shortness of breath. They may also experience the same even while indulging in minimal physical activity.
Causes of Asthma
According to the WHO, asthma is primarily caused due to the swelling and narrowing of the air carrying tubes in the lungs. However, this swelling and narrowing of the air tubes is associated with a combination of various environmental and genetic factors. Some of them include:
- Genetics: The condition can pass on with the genes. Thus, if a person’s either parent has asthma, he/she is more likely to develop it.
- History of viral infections: People who have a history of viral infections during childhood share an increased risk of developing the respiratory condition.
- Indoor allergen exposure: Various studies assert that frequent exposure to possible allergens and irritants can possibly increase one’s risk of developing asthma. House dust mites and animal fur from pets are some of the most common allergens found indoors.
- Outdoor allergen exposure: Pollen, mould, tobacco smoke, chemical irritants, etc. are some of the outdoor allergens that can worsen the symptoms of asthma.
Furthermore, asthma can also be triggered in people due to extreme climatic conditions like low temperatures and high humidity. In some cases, even emotions like shouting, laughing, etc. may trigger an asthma attack.
Fortunately, asthma attacks are both preventable and manageable. Health experts assert that performing breathing exercises and using pharmaceutical products like inhalers or nebulizers manufactured by the top pharmaceutical companies in India are some of the important preventive measures people should take in order to effectively manage the condition.