Health Facts

Asthma/ Chronic Infections

If you have asthma, you’re not alone. In India alone, about 34.3 million cases of asthma are reported, and about 13.2 thousand deaths in India were due to asthma.

Asthma is long-term chronic (long-standing) lung disease that makes breathing difficult. This happens when one’s airways swell up and become narrow, and may produce extra mucus. All these changes cause wheezing and a difficulty to breathe.

Symptoms

Apart from breathing difficulties, this condition can trigger coughing, wheezing (a whistling sound while exhaling) and shortness of breath.

Other signs include:

Chest tightness, pain or pressure

Coughing or wheezing worsens when you catch a cold or flu

Trouble in sleeping because of shortness of breath

Types

Depending on the severity of the asthma attack, it can be categorised as:

  1. Intermittent (where asthma symptoms come and go)
  2. Persistent (where asthma symptoms stay most of the time)

Depending on its onset in life, it can be:

  1. Paediatric (before age 5)
  2. Adult-onset (after 18)

For some, asthma can be triggered by certain situations.

  1. Exercise-induced asthma: Asthma may be triggered due to prolonged or strenuous exercise. The air and moisture around your nose can also affect this type of asthma.
  2. Occupation-induced asthma: Your occupation could trigger asthma, when you have to work with chemicals or dust.

Depending on the cause, asthma can be of 3 types broadly:

  1. Allergic asthma: Different allergies could trigger asthma, such as pollen, mold, or pet dander.
  2. Non-allergic asthma: The reasons for non-allergic asthma are not very well understood.
  3. Cough-variant asthma: People with this type of asthma often have a dry, non-productive cough (no mucus is produced). They do not experience any other common asthma symptoms, except coughing.

Any previous allergies, other respiratory disorders, environmental factors and genetics are said to play a role in the asthma occurrence.

Diagnosis & treatment

With careful observation of your symptoms, previous allergies and health history in general; your healthcare provider may order for blood tests, skin tests, chest X-ray or spirometry to diagnose the cause of asthma.

Treatment usually includes a combination of medicines, inhalers, or therapies that relax your airways, reduce your respiratory secretions, and ease your asthma symptoms.

FAQ's :

No one is born with asthma. However, you may be born with faulty genes that are responsible for you to develop asthma in infancy or later years in life.

Asthma is similar, but it is not considered as an autoimmune disorder. Asthma is caused by an overreaction of the immune system to certain triggers, whereas in an autoimmune disorder, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells.

Asthma can be genetic, though not all cases of asthma are inherited. Asthma tends to run in families. It depends on different genes that you inherit from your family.

Genetic testing is difficult, but research is being done for this. Gene profiling (understanding your gene and how they express) is needed for treatment and prevention.

References:

  1. Saffron A.G. Willis-Owen, William O.C. Cookson, and Miriam F. Moffatt. Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics 2018 19:1, 223-246
  2. Cleveland. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/6424-asthma Accessed on 28-03-2022
  1. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/asthma/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20369660 Accessed on 28-03-2022
  1. MedlinePlus.gov. https://medlineplus.gov/asthma.html Accessed on 28-03-2022
  1. American Lung Association. https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/asthma Accessed on 28-03-2022

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