Asthma is a medical condition that causes the airways to constrict. Today we are going to take a look at what are the signs and symptoms of asthma, and what distinguishes it from other medical conditions that affect the respiratory system.
What Is Asthma?
Affecting up to one in nine Australians, asthma is a fairly common medical condition, and it occurs more frequently in families who have allergies. While there is no cure for the condition it can and must be managed strictly.
Asthmatic episodes can come and go, and when the person isn’t having an asthmatic episode or attack, their breathing is quite normal. There are different triggers that can cause an asthmatic person to have an episode. When a person is having asthma attacks, he or she will experience the following asthma symptoms:
Their airways constrict
The muscles on either side of the airway contract, making the airway narrower. When the condition is controlled the asthmatic person can take medication that relaxes their airways and makes it physically easier to breathe.
The airways become thicker and fill up
The inner lining of the airways can become swollen, meaning that the person has less space available through which to move air. Medication can help to control inflammation when this occurs. It is also possible for the airways to fill up with mucus.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Asthma?
The most common sign of asthma is a wheezing sound that comes from your chest when you breathe. Patients also report not being able to get enough air or oxygen, and noticeable shortness of breath. They may cough and also feel chest tightness.
During an asthma attack, one of the most common asthma symptoms is not being able to speak because of interruptions to your breathing.
Different patients find that different triggers can cause asthma attacks. Examples of triggers may include cigarette smoke, perfume, animal fur, air pollution or dust.
How Is Asthma Diagnosed
Your doctor will diagnose asthma if you have had multiple flare ups in succession, you have a family history of asthma or allergies and if your asthma symptoms improve with the use of an inhaler.
What Is An Asthma Flare-up?
An asthma flare up is when asthma symptoms are more severe than usual. Flare ups are more severe asthma attacks. They generally do not self-resolve and require additional asthma treatment. An asthma flare up can get worse quite quickly or progress over a longer period of time but it is important to seek asthma treatment as soon as possible.
Severe asthma attacks can be characterised as:
- Unresponsive to the use of your inhaler
- Asthma symptoms are constant and severe
- You feel restless or frightened
- Your pulse is racing
- Your fingertips or nails look blue.
What To Do During An Asthma Attack
The symptoms of an asthma attack may come on quickly, and it helps to be prepared. If this happens, you may experience
- An increase in wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing or tightness in your chest
- A need to use your inhaler within three hours of your last administration
- Being woken at night because of your asthma symptoms.
If you or someone you are with experiences an asthma emergency, don’t hesitate to call an ambulance or take them to the nearest clinic. If the person experiences difficulty breathing, has their fingertips turning blue, has rapidly deteriorating asthma symptoms or is not getting any relief from the use of their inhaler, you should call for emergency assistance.
Who Does Asthma Affect?
Asthma can affect anyone at any age. It can begin in childhood or start suddenly during adulthood and its exact cause is not known. It’s the leading cause behind childhood hospital admissions.
It affects more boy children during primary school years but after the teenage years is more likely to affect females.
It has been observed that pregnant mothers who smoke are more likely to have children who suffer from asthma. Children and adults living in areas with high levels of air pollution or chemical exposures are also more likely to experience more severe asthma symptoms and asthma attacks. It is more likely to affect people from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
The most common types of asthma include
- Allergic asthma
- Non-allergic asthma
- Occupational asthma
- Exercise-induced asthma
- Nocturnal asthma asthma
What Asthma Treatment Is Available?
While asthma sufferers do not need to manage their environmental exposures to manage triggers and minimize asthma attacks, there are different medications that offer different benefits:
Relievers: these relax the muscles surrounding the airways and are especially useful during an asthma attack.
Preventers: make the airways slowly less sensitive to triggers, reducing inflammation and can be taken on a daily basis as part of a patient’s management plan.
Combination therapies: these employ the use of both of the above types of medication as part of an asthma management plan.
Patients must ensure they take their prescribed medications, at the correct times and frequencies, in the correct dosage, and that they know how to use their inhaler correctly.
Creating An Asthma Management Plan
Sirius Health works with our patients to ensure you have comprehensive asthma management or action plan, so you are prepared for any eventuality or development in your condition. This plan will include features such as
- A schedule for how often you should be seeing your healthcare provider for check ups
- A list and management strategy for triggers
- Correct use of medication
- An emergency management plan
Do you have any questions about the signs and symptoms of asthma? Early intervention and treatment could help make a difference. If you’ve experienced any of the asthma symptoms above you should be evaluated by your healthcare practitioner.
Please contact us for a convenient appointment: (02) 9159 6903.