Asthma and Allergy Foundation in America (2011) defines asthma as a chronic inflammation of the airways. Asthma affects its sufferers by causing the constriction of the bronchial tubes. This causes a lot of difficulty in breathing. However, the foundation notes that with timely treatment, the swelling and narrowing of the bronchial system can be reversed. Though asthma affects people of all ages, it is more common among the children and women (AAFA, 2011).
Airway Constriction and Inflammation
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center reported by AAFA (2011), airway constriction refers to the swelling and narrowing of the airways. It is caused by the reaction between the sensitive airways and the irritants. It is responsible for the asthma symptoms like the tightening of the chest. Its end result is the narrowing of the airways which finally leads to lesser air flowing into the lungs. These are the series of reactions that finally lead to difficulty in breathing which is one of the symptoms of the disease. In severe cases, the swellings can worsen causing the airways to be extremely narrower.
On the other hand, the University of Maryland Medical Center reported by AAFA (2011), defines inflammation as a response of a tissue injury caused by a foreign pathogen. The process normally increases the rate of blood flow and may thus lead to further complications like increased temperature and swelling of the airways. Inflammation may also result into the production of too much mucus which may clump together causing clogs which can block the smaller airways.
The two processes work together to narrow one’s airways resulting into asthma related symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, tightened chest, or shortness of breathing. However, inflammation is possible among the people with asthma even when they don’t have symptoms (AAFA, 2011).
Types of Asthma
Allergic Asthma: According to AAFA (2011), allergic asthma results from allergic reaction to allergens such as dust or pollens and the respiratory infections such as common cold. It is also called extrinsic asthma. It is the most common type of asthma. It is related to family history and the climatic seasons/weather patterns. It always goes into emission in early adulthood. However, 75% of the asthma cases usually re-appear later (AAFA, 2011).
AAFA (2011) noted that non-allergic asthma is caused by non-allergic asthma triggers like the irritants in the air such as those from tobacco or wood smoke. According to their publication, it usually develops after the age of 30. Their symptoms may be the same as those suffering from allergic asthma. However, to this group of patients, allergens from the natural world are not a threat (AAFA, 2011).
Nocturnal asthma: It is also called nighttime asthma. People with nocturnal asthma have high possibility of experiencing asthma related symptoms at night. This happens because asthma is closely related to the sleep-wake cycle a rhythm called Circadian. The symptoms may include cough and difficulty in breathing particularly at night. According to research by the University of Maryland Medical Care, high percentage of asthma related deaths occur during the night. The medical care argues that this could be caused by the increased exposure to sinus infection or the postnasal drip usually caused by allergens. The other causes would be the lowering in the level protective substances such as adrenaline and corticosteroids (AAFA, 2011).
Pregnancy asthma: Studies by the same Medical Center has revealed that a third of the asthmatic pregnant mothers always experience worsening of their state. However, a third of the affected pregnant mothers will also show improvement in their status. This improvement is majorly attributed to the reduced complications during Pregnancy (CDC, 2011).
Occupational Asthma: Occupational asthma is a lung disorder in which substances found in the workplace cause the airways of the lungs to swell and narrow. Other symptoms of this kind of asthma may include: wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing. It is mostly common among animal breeders, nurses, hairdressers. Other frequent uffers of the same include the painters and the wood workers (AAFA, 2011).
AAFA (2011), notes that the common trigger factor for asthma symptoms are normally the allergy causing substances. They include animals, dust mites, changes in whether, various chemicals present in the air of in the food we eat, various forms of exercises, out mold, pets, pollen from flowers, sprays or wood smoke, respiratory infections such as the common cold, strong emotions or stress, and smoking or inhaling tobacco smoke (AAFA, 2011).
Signs and Symptoms of Asthma
The specific symptoms of asthma include chronic cough. The cough usually climaxes during the night and very early in the morning. It may also be experienced after the victim involves him/herself in an exercise. The second symptom is related to intercostals retractions. It leads to series of reactions which triggers the skin to pull against the ribs causing some pain. The third major symptom is shortness of breath which normally worsens at night during the time one is sleeping (Mayo Clinic, 2011).
Forth is wheezing which is characterized by the production of an abnormal sound whenever one is breathing out. This symptom is normally seasonal and often worsens in the night and very early in the morning when it is still cold or after involvement in an exercise. Though it normally disappears by itself, it is recommended for one to seek medication (Mayo Clinic, 2011).
Causes of Asthma
According to AAFA (2011), the environmental factors especially those which are related to indoor air pollution have the potential of causing asthma. These substances include: air pollution from mold or dangerous fumes from such substances as paints and other house hold cleaners. Other sources of pollution associated with asthma include nitrogen oxide from gas stoves, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, ozone, cold weather and high humidity (AAFA, 2011).
Genetic causes: According to research findings reported by AAFA (2011), around 100 genes are believed to have the potential of causing asthma. Some of these genes assist in controlling both the immune system and the inflammation of the airways. CDC (2011) further recorded that any one whose parents are asthmatic has three to six times chances of contacting the disease. CDC (2011) also notes that in some cases some genes may also react with certain environmental factors. Example of such a match as to trigger the reaction is that between endotoxin bacterial product and CD14 genetic trait AAFA. (2011).
Diagnosis of Asthma
A simple test has never been found for diagnosis of asthma. The doctors basically ask their patients about their medical history and the current symptoms which then act as a guideline for their medication. Most of the physical examination majorly focuses on the upper section of the respiratory tract, chest and skin. The doctor may also carry out spirometry to demonstrate obstruction and assess the possibility of the situation being reversed CDC. (2011).
Asthma treatments focus on avoiding the various trigger substances. This help to manage asthma symptoms and to control airway inflammation. The first majorly available medication for treating asthma is the use of control drugs. The drugs help the patients to prevent the possibility of having an attack. Second is the use of Quick relief drugs during any attack. Control drugs are recommended to be taken on a daily basis even when the symptoms are no longer showing. The drugs that are used in most cases are inhaled corticosteroids like Asmanex which guards against the swelling of the airways as well as other symptoms.
On the other hand the Quick-relief drugs are always very efficient in controlling symptoms. They are advisable in cases of severe symptoms like wheezing and troubled breathing or just before exercise. They includee inhalers such as Ventolin. The inhaled medications are recommended because they have a direct effect both on the airway surface its muscles.
According to Mayo Clinic (2011), it is possible to prevent asthma by practicing lifestyles that avoid environmental triggers, eating certain types of food while also exercising to control stress. One should also work towards avoiding triggers through: regular use of air conditioner, regular dusting and cleaning of one’s furniture, maintaining low levels of humidity both at home and in the place of work, avoid keeping pets especially if one is allergic to dander, wearing of face especially when it is cold, and finally avoiding smoking.
The sufferers should also strive to reduce their exposure to outdoor triggers like moulds and pollens. Mayo clinic (2011), notes that certain people are also always allergic to certain types of foods like Omega-6 fatty acids. That any attempt to take them may trigger a reaction causing asthma symptoms. On the other hand foods containing plenty of vitamins such as fruits are recommended. The clinic has also stressed on the need for one to avoid stress and anxiety.
Asthma Action Plan
This is a written plan mutually developed by the patient and his/her doctor to help in the control of the asthma symptoms. It generally shows the patient’s daily treatment like the dosage. The plan also gives the patients detailed guidelines on the necessary measures to help them control asthma both in long term and also in case of attacks. It helps the patients to know when to visit a doctor based on the symptoms.
Statistics about Asthma in the United States
Childhood Asthma normally begins showing symptoms during the childhood stage. It attacks children who are sensitive to allergens commonly found in the environment. Asthma affects 10-12% of children in the U.S. studies have also shown that most children begin to experience asthma symptoms at the age of five. According to CDC report (2011), 20, 000,000 children and adults live with asthma all over the U.S. Their analysis revealed that the rise in the number of asthmatic children sufferers is as a result of the increased rate of environmental pollution.
Today, there are numerous support groups in the U.S. to help the asthma patients control and cope with the disease. Of great importance are Educational Support Groups which are spread all over the U.S states. The groups are categorized into those of parents, pre-teens and teens, adults and food allergy groups based on need variation (CDC, 2011).
Complications and Prognosis
Asthma related complications includes interference with sleep and exercise related activities, absenteeism from school and work due to attacks, permanent or temporary difficulty in breathing, spending one’s time in visiting emergency rooms and having to stay in hospitals and physical pains. Asthma is also responsible for large number of deaths.
The statistics from all over the world shows that the occurrence of asthma is relatively high among the low income populations. Asthma related deaths are also high in developing countries compared to that in the developed countries. The poor are more prone to the disease because of their poor living conditions which exposes them to asthma allergens and environmental causal factors.
From the study, it is obvious that genetic factors play a major role in causing the disease. However, many of the environmental factors discussed can be managed to lower the rate of the occurrence of this disease. There is also need for further research on more appropriate way of diagnosing the disease.