5 Facts About Asthma
Asthma is a chronic, inflammatory condition that can be kept under control with the right treatment and management.
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. During an attack, the muscles that surround the bronchial tubes constrict and narrow the air passages, thus making it extremely difficult to breathe. The symptoms of asthma include wheezing, tightness in the chest, shortness of breath and coughing.
Asthma is a global condition. Around 358 million people around the world suffer from this asthma. India itself has about 37.9 million asthmatics.
Although this disease is prevalent worldwide, there are many misconceptions and myths surrounding it. Here are the most important facts to know about asthma:
1. Asthma is not contagious
Asthma is a non-communicable disease. This means that it cannot be passed from person to person. The main causes of asthma are genetics, allergens and environmental factors. Those who have a parent suffering from asthma are 3 to 6 times more likely to develop asthma than those who have no family history of the same. Allergens such as pollen, dust mites and pet dander are also major risk factors for asthma as they trigger inflammation of the airways and cause an attack. Lastly, environmental aggressors such as air pollution, weather and cigarette smoke can lead to an asthma attack. Exposure to work-related pollutants such as chemical fumes, particulate matter and wood dust can also trigger the symptoms of asthma.
2. Asthma is not a psychological disease
Asthma is not a disease of the mind. It is caused by inflammation of the airways and leads to an obstruction in airflow to and from the lungs. However, strong emotions can trigger the symptoms of asthma. Fear, excitement, anger and laughter can affect the way a person breathes and may cause one to take in short breaths through the mouth, which can set off an attack.
3. Exercise is good for asthmatics
Many people believe that if you are diagnosed with asthma, you should avoid all forms of exercise. In reality, regular exercise can help reduce asthma symptoms. The benefits of physical activity include improved efficiency of the lungs, a stronger immune system and increased stamina. In addition, exercise can aid with weight loss, which is important for those who are obese. People with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 have a much higher risk of developing asthma than those with a lower BMI.
For some people, exercise can act as a trigger for an attack. Exercise-induced asthma or exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) is what happens when the tubes that bring air into and out of your lungs narrow with exercise, causing symptoms of asthma. This type of asthma is triggered by factors such as low temperatures, dry air, pollen and air pollution. Consult with a doctor to create a treatment plan if you are diagnosed with EIB. Regular use of a controller inhaler can help alleviate and prevent symptoms of asthma. If you suffer from EIB, avoid vigorous forms of exercise and opt for activities such as swimming, walking and biking. During the winter or on days with high pollution levels, stick to indoor activities.
4. Asthma can be controlled
Asthma is a chronic condition, which means that it needs constant monitoring. However, with the right medication and management, it can definitely be controlled. Simple steps such as avoiding your triggers can go a long way in preventing an attack.
If your asthma is under control, you should not have any breathing difficulties, cough or wheeze on most days. Good asthma control will ensure that you can sleep through the night and exercise, without experiencing any of the symptoms.
5. Correct treatment can prevent death
Deaths caused due to asthma are rare and are largely preventable, particularly among children and young adults. By following a correct asthma management plan and taking the medication as prescribed, asthma-related deaths can be completely avoided. Each case of asthma is different so it is important to sit down with your doctor and create a treatment plan that is tailored to you and your symptoms.
Generally, you will be prescribed two kinds of medication – a reliever and a controller. The former works quickly to relax the muscles around your airways to ease the symptoms of asthma. Controllers are long-term medications that prevent and reduce swelling in the airways to reduce the number and severity of an asthma attack. Both these medications usually come in the form of inhalers as the inhalation route ensures that the drug goes directly to the lungs, instead of travelling through the bloodstream.
6. Asthma is a lifelong condition
Asthma is a long-term disease and the tendency to develop asthma symptoms is probably lifelong. However, the occurrence and severity of attacks can be reduced with an action plan. Successful asthma management includes knowing the warning signs of an attack, avoiding things that may trigger an attack and following the advice of your doctor. Although this condition is a long-lasting one, the important thing to remember is that your asthma can be controlled.