Asthma: What people should know about asthma

Definition, triggers, diagnosis and treatment.

  • Definition

    Asthma causes inflammation, swelling and narrowing of the airways in the lungs.

  • Triggers

    The major triggers of this unusual reaction of the airways are numerous, including non-allergic irritants such as pollution, smoking, cold air, changes in weather, perfumes and allergens such as dust mite, pollen, mold, pet-dander.

  • Symptoms

    The most common symptom is wheezing .This is a whistling sound when you breathe. Other symptoms include:
    1. Shortness of breath
    2. Chest tightness or pain
    3. Chronic coughing
    4. Trouble sleeping due to coughing or wheezing

  • Asthma diagnosis (procedures, tests):

    Asthma is diagnosed by taking a thorough medical history and performing breathing tests to measure how well your lungs work. One of these tests is called spirometry.

  • You are asked to take a deep breath and blow into a sensor to measure the amount of air you inhale or exhale. This test diagnoses asthma severity and measures how well treatment is working.

  • Many people with asthma also have allergies, so your doctor performs allergy testing (Prick test).

    Treating the underlying allergic triggers for your asthma will help you avoid asthma symptoms. The prick test is used to diagnose inhaled allergens and consequently deliver what is called immunotherapy mainly sublingual immunotherapy (specific vaccines for asthma).

  • Treatment

    You should know that asthma is an incurable illness. However, with good treatment and management, there is no reason why a person with asthma cannot live a normal and active life, and his asthma symptoms completely controlled. This involves taking your medications as directed, learning to avoid triggers, and apply specific immunotherapy (mainly sublingual immunotherapy) when indicated. Controller medications are taken daily and include mainly inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) to control the underlying chronic inflammation.

    Reliever or rescue medications are used to quickly relax and open the airways and relieve symptoms and include mainly short-acting beta-agonists (SABA) and sometimes long-acting beta-agonists (LABA). You should know also that combination therapy (controller + reliever mainly LABA) is very effective at the present time and is used worldwide on a large scale as a sole therapy for asthma.

    Multiple devices are used to deliver these medications, aiming for a better compliance and a better delivery and deposition in the lungs as newer and newer devices are manufactured.

    In severe refractory cases and in difficult – to – treat asthma, oral steroids can be added. However in recent years, in these particular cases and in poorly compliant patients, Anti-IgE treatment can be added with its highly proven efficacy and it’s highly safety profile.