It is safe to say that most of us either know someone with asthma or have been diagnosed with asthma ourselves.
With the increase in urban air pollution, asthma is becoming more and more common in our cities.
Although the medical definition of asthma is fairly simple, the condition itself is very complex.
In this article, I will talk about what asthma is, who is at risk as well as its causes and possible treatments.
Doctors define asthma as a chronic inflammatory disease of the airway.
People with asthma have extra sensitive or hypersensitive airways.
These airways react by narrowing when they become irritated. This narrowing or obstruction can cause symptoms such as shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, coughing and wheezing.
However, there is no set pattern as far as the symptoms are concerned.
They can be mild, moderate or severe and vary greatly from person to person. Presently, the cause of asthma is not known, and there is no cure.
In people with normal lung functions, air is inhaled through the nose and the mouth.
It then passes through the trachea or the windpipe on its way into the bronchi (large airways), which then branch into smaller and smaller tubes ending in many small sacs called alveoli.
It is in these alveoli that oxygen is transferred to the blood and carbon dioxide is removed.
People with asthma often have trouble breathing when they are in the presence of triggers (things or situations that induce asthma symptoms) such as allergens or cold weather.
Each individual will be sensitive to their own specific triggers.
When someone with asthma has symptoms, it means that the flow of air is obstructed as it passes in and out of the lungs.
The obstruction is caused when the lining of the airways becomes inflamed and may produce more mucous or the muscles that surround the airways become sensitive and start to constrict and tighten causing the airways to narrow.
Both of these factors cause the airways to narrow, making it difficult for air to pass in and out of them.
Asthma is a chronic condition, which means that it needs to be managed and treated over a lifetime.
Anyone can get asthma, although it is usually first diagnosed in young people. Currently, about three million Canadians have asthma.
If your doctor suspects that you might have asthma, he or she will evaluate your medical history and your family’s medical history as you are more likely to have asthma if you have a parent or close relative with allergies and/or asthma.
Your chance of having asthma is also increased if you have a history of wheezing, allergic rhinitis (inflammation in the nose) and Eczema.
Your doctor will also perform specific lung function tests designed to measure the lungs’ functional capabilities.
In addition, your doctor may prescribe medications that can conclusively determine whether or not you have asthma.
Once you have been diagnosed with asthma you can begin treating it.
Most people with asthma take two kinds of medication.
The first type of medication is called a controller or a preventer. It reduces the inflammation in the airways.
Controllers should be taken every day and over time will greatly reduce the symptoms.
This type of medication is used to alleviate symptoms immediately.
Relievers are only a short-term solution to breathing problems and indicate that there is underlying inflammation present that requires a controller medication.
The goal of asthma management is to obtain total control of the condition and to maintain it over time. Total control of asthma means:
* No daytime symptoms;
* No nighttime symptoms;
* Not needing to use your reliever medication regularly;
* No school or work absenteeism due to asthma;
* Normal breathing tests.
Asthma is usually not a life threatening condition as most people live a full and active life.
The key to this is learning how to control the condition keeping the patient symptom free.
By following your doctor’s and asthma educator’s instructions, as well as avoiding you personal triggers, you can control your asthma and its symptoms.
Much of asthma management is a matter of simple lifestyle modification.
If you have any questions or concerns pertaining to asthma you should consult with your family physician.
– Dr. Jerry Singh, B. Kin., D.C., runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 1 888 252-7327, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.