What is it?

Asthma (also called reactive airway disease) is a disease of the airways (called bronchi), which constrict in response to various triggers. This constriction causes air flow obstruction that manifest as shortness of breath and wheezing. Asthma is a chronic disease that tend to flare up (an event known as asthma attack) in response to triggers such as certain allergens, physical activity, stress, cold air or viral infection. Asthma attack can be a dangerous condition that that can cause significant respiratory distress, thus requiring prompt medical management.

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Signs & symptoms

Symptoms of asthma are dry cough, wheezing, thick mucus production and shortness of breath. Symptoms tend to worsen at night and can wake up from sleep. Mild asthma or asthma that is well controlled under treatment can be asymptomatic and cause symptoms only during a flare-up. Asthma attack manifests as sudden worsening of symptoms, including significant shortness of breath, strenuous and rapid breathing and tightness in the chest.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of asthma is based on a doctor's examination and tests such as blood gas test, a chest x-ray and a lung function test called spirometry. In cases of asthma triggered by inhaled allergens, a skin prick test may be needed in order to identify the allergen that causes the excecerbation.

Treatment

Even though asthma is a chronic condition, most people manage their disease well using the right treatment. The two main goals of asthma treatment are preventing asthma attacks (using drugs classified as ‘controllers’), and ease them when happening (using drugs classified as ‘relievers’). Daily use of inhalers, containing steroids and bronchodilators (drugs that dilate the airways), in the mainstay of the ‘controlling’ treatment, while short-acting inhaled bronchodilators can be used during an attack to alleviate its severity. People with mild asthma can control their symptoms sufficiently using only ‘relievers’, while people with severe asthma may need to use additional treatments, such as anti-inflammatory drugs. In some cases, severe asthma attack may require hospitalization for several days, until airways are no longer compromised.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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