Asthma is very common, chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways (bronchial tubes) causing difficult breathing.
When healthy person breathe air enters in through the nose or mouth and passes through trachea (windpipe) and then through the bronchial tubes into the lungs. Then the same way out. In people with asthma this process is interrupted due to shrinking of tight muscles surrounding airways and inflammation of airways causing a lot of thick mucus. Results of this condition are wheezing (whistle sound during breathing), chest tightness, coughing, shortness of breath and trouble breathing.
Other symptoms may include chest pain, rapid breathing (tachypnea), rapid heart rate (tachycardia), prolonged expiration, rhonchous lung sounds (may be detected with stethoscope) and over-inflation of the chest.
People affected with asthma are very sensitive to an environmental conditions such as dust, pollen, cold or warm air, moist air, polluted air especially tobacco smoke and exposure to an environmental stimulant (allergen). Those conditions can make asthma symptoms much harder and heavier and this condition is called asthma attack. These attacks are different depending on its cause. Sometimes they can be very dangerous even life-threatening because the airways can close too much so oxygen isn't able to get to vital organs causing medical emergency condition that can lead to dead if not treated.
During asthma attack additional symptoms may occur including extreme hard breathing, anxienty, sweating, fatigue, blue color of the lips and face due to lack of oxygen.
Those attacks may be triggered by many other things such as exercise, having certain pets, taking aspirin, emotional stress or viral illnesses (most commonly affecting children).
There is a simple device known as peak flow meter that can easily measure lung volume for preventing incoming attacks. This device is most commonly used among children and can successful indicate when medications are needed.
Although those attacks may sometimes look like a cold asthma is not contagious.
Due to seriousness of symptoms asthma can be very mild or severe and most people is somewhere in between. Even if asthma is mild patient should regularly visit doctor because symptoms can easily get worse.
There is no scientific evidence about asthma causes but there are many presumptions based on combination of en environmental factors and genetic predispositions.
Asthma can be diagnosed by many methods such as disease history, stethoscopic listening of the lungs for asthma-related sounds, x-ray, lung function tests, arterial blood gas, blood tests based on eosinophil count, peak flow measurements.
Asthma can not be cured but treatments may seriously improve quality of affected people's lives.
The best way of asthma treatment is prevention by avoiding things that can cause asthma attacks. Anyway people liable to frequent attacks should take medications that will keep airways open.
Those medications are oftenly taken through an inhaler, plastic tube that include bottle with medicine. There are also other kinds of medications that can be taken orally.
Anyway cause of all asthma medications is taking asthma attacks under control despite any triggers.
Those medications can be separated in two categories:
Rescue medications - also known as quick-relief, fast-acting or reliever, are not long lasting but they act quickly to halt incoming asthma attack.
Controller medications - also known as preventive or maintenance medications should be taken regularly in purpose of prevention asthma symptoms form occurring.
Keeping asthma related personal diary is very effective for asthma affected people and can help doctor in developing the best methods of treatment. This diary should contain daily logs about peak flow meter results, times when symptoms occurred and times when medications were taken.
Although asthma can sometimes be hard to handle it should not stop affected people of doing any kind of activity they wish to do. In fact there are a lot of very successful sportsmen who exercise regularly despite illness.
Pictures from this page were taken from Wikipedia.