Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition which causes the airways to narrow, swell, and produce extra mucus. Asthmatic attacks if not managed timely and adequately may lead to a life-threatening event.
Asthma is one of the most common chronic conditions worldwide. In the Philippines, 12% of the population have asthma according to the Global Asthma Report. This means 1 out of 10 Filipinos are afflicted with asthma.
It often starts during childhood, usually before the age of 5. But onset during adulthood is possible, starting after the age of 18.
What Causes Asthma?
There are several factors that may predispose a patient to develop asthma:
- Genetics – According to a study in 2014, genetic factors account for 70% of a person’s risk for developing asthma. Children of asthmatic parents are more likely to get it.
- Environmental factors – Exposure to allergens and irritants, such as fumes, chemicals, dust, molds, and air pollution, can irritate the airways and predispose an individual to develop asthma.
- Respiratory infections – Severe viral infections during childhood, like Respiratory Syncytial virus (RSV), can predispose a child to develop asthma.
Asthma triggers for each patient vary. Some patients can be more sensitive to certain triggers than others.
The most common triggers include:
- Air pollution
- Dust mites
- Exercise or physical activity
- Infections (respiratory)
- Intense emotion
- Medications (ex. Aspirin or NSAIDs)
- Pet dander
- Strong chemicals or scents
- Tobacco smoke
- Weather conditions (extreme)
What Happens During an Asthma Attack?
The signs and symptoms include:
- Chest tightness, pain, or pressure
- Coughing (mostly at night)
- Difficulty speaking (able to speak in short phrases/words)
- Fast breathing
- Night-time awakening
- Shortness of breath
- Trouble sleeping
- Wheezing (squealing or whistling sound when breathing)
Asthma symptoms may present differently for each patient. The symptoms may be experienced through the day, and for some, certain activities may worsen them. (ex. exercise)
Treating asthma involves recognizing the triggers, avoiding them, and using medications. Medical treatment of asthma depends on the patient’s asthma severity.
For acute asthma attacks, quick relief medications are used such as bronchodilators (ex. Salbutamol). This medication works within minutes to relieve the airway constriction and decrease the symptoms quickly. They can be administered orally or inhaled via an inhaler or nebulizer.
For patients with persistent asthma, long-term control medications are given to achieve and maintain control of asthma. These medications help reduce airway inflammation, control chronic symptoms, and prevent asthma attacks. They are taken daily on a long-term basis. The duration of therapy will be determined by the patient’s symptoms and control, with the guidance of their Pulmonologist.
It pays to be informed.
Pop culture has long taught us that asthma is a sign of weakness. However, learning more about it helps people realize that people who are afflicted with the condition are much stronger than we anticipate.
As common as it is, the condition raises a lot of questions. Do you have any more questions about asthma? Call us! With voice and video consultations, a record of your consultations, and more, the Medgate app is here to make you worry less.
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