Asthma is a chronic disease that causes irritation and inflammation of the airways in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. During normal breathing, the muscle bands surrounding the airways relax and the air moves freely. During an asthma attack, there are three main changes that stop air from moving easily in the airways. These:
- The muscle bands surrounding the airways are stretched and cause narrowing of the airways. This is called bronchospasm.
- The airway lining swells or burns.
- Cells covering the airways produce more mucus, which is thicker than normal, which clogs the airways.
These 3 factors cause symptoms such as bronchospasm, inflammation and mucus production, difficulty breathing, rustling and coughing. For some people, asthma is not a big problem. But for some asthmatic patients, it can be an important problem that interferes with daily activities and can lead to a life-threatening asthma crisis.
What Are the Symptoms of Asthma?
Asthma and the airways in the lungs are susceptible to certain irritants. When exposed to these irritants, the small airways of the lungs (bronchioles) become irritated, swollen, and the muscles surrounding the bronchiole walls contract (bronchoconstriction). Excess mucous membranes are produced in the airways, restricting air circulation in the lungs, and breathing becomes difficult. However, shortness of breath, which is characteristic of cough, rustling and asthma, appears. The severity of asthma symptoms varies from person to person. Some patients experience only mild symptoms, while others experience very severe symptoms. Attacks may develop suddenly and may occur after relatively no problems remain. A severe asthma attack can be life-threatening if not treated immediately. Common signs and symptoms of asthma include:
- Cough. It can get even more violent at night,
- Growling in breath shopping,
- Chest tightening,
- Severe contraction of breath
- Difficulty in speaking in severe asthma attacks,
- Blue color around the mouth in moderate and severe asthma attacks.
What Causes Asthma?
The exact cause of asthma is unknown. It is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic (genetic) and environmental phenomena. This disease can also occur in situations such as environmental changes, some diets or exposure to infections. It is known that most people with asthma have a constant amount of inflammation in the airways. The airways are also sensitive to some irritants known as triggers. Triggers can cause an asthma attack by causing the already inflamed respiratory tract to become stuck and narrowed. Each individual tends to be different asthma triggers. Common asthma triggers include:
- A family member has an asthma problem,
- Work in some occupations. (Carpentry, hairdressing, joinery, tailoring, health care, tin and farming)
- Too much exposure to allergic conditions during infancy,
- Starting from the age of 1,5-2 years, getting serious respiratory problems,
- Pregnant mother smoking during pregnancy,
- Continuous smoking in the family,
- The unborn child of the unborn child without vitamin and poor nutrition.
What Triggers Asthma?
Numerous triggers can cause asthma attacks. The conditions that trigger asthma are:
- House mites: It is the most frequent trigger of asthma attacks. House mites are very small and invisible creatures. They live in pillows, sheets, curtains and carpets. They feed by eating dead cells that fall from human skin.
- Cigarette smoke: While smoking is unhealthy for everyone, it is particularly dangerous for people with asthma. Cigarette smoke can trigger a serious asthma attack.
- Grill smoke: Although it may seem natural, the smoke contains harmful gases and particles in these gases. Burning wood and barbecues should be avoided at home.
- Outdoor air pollution: Emissions from factories, cars, buses, lawn mowers and snowblowers can all trigger the asthma crisis. Exposure to these sources should be avoided whenever possible. It is also a good idea to check air quality measurements related to pollution, such as ozone and small particles, and to stay as far as possible when the measurements rise.
- Some foods and additives: Some foods and additives can trigger severe asthma attacks. These additives contain preservatives as follows. These; Sulfides, Parabens, Nitrates and nitrites, Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), Benzoates, Aspartame (sweeteners), Tartrazine (a dye type), Monosodium glutamate (a flavor enhancer).
- Acid reflux can also trigger an asthma attack in some people, and any food that makes this condition worse may also be responsible for the symptoms.
- Respiratory tract infections: These include influenza, colds, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and sinus infections.
- Strong emotional states: Negative emotions, such as stress, anxiety, depression or fear, often cause hyperventilation (heavy and rapid breathing), causing attacks.
- Use of some drugs: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve) may be triggers in some cases.
- Pollen: They cause seasonal asthma attacks. Nasal and nasal discharge and dyspnea may occur.
- Animals: The feathers of some domestic animals such as cats, dogs and birds can also trigger attacks.
- Atopy: Atopy is a general class of allergic susceptibility that causes allergic reactions in different parts of the body that do not come into contact with any allergens. Examples include eczema, hay fever, and an eye condition called allergic conjunctivitis. During atopy, the body produces more immunoglobin (IgE) antibodies than normal in response to common allergens. The most common type of asthma is atopic asthma and plays a key role in the development of atopy. Environmental allergens cause overproduction of IgE antibodies and trigger asthmatic reactions.
How is Asthma Diagnosed?
The 3 main components include a definite diagnosis of asthma. These; medical history, observations during physical examination and breath exchange tests.
The family’s detailed history of asthma and allergy helps the doctor make the right diagnosis for this disease.
Physical examination: Physical examination will usually focus on the upper respiratory tract, chest and skin. The doctor will listen to signs of rustling in the lungs or a high-pitched voice about breathing during breath control using a stethoscope. Wheezing is a key sign of both a blocked airway and asthma. The doctor will also check for skin problems, including eczema, by checking for runny nose, swollen nasal passages, and soft growth of the inside of the nose. These are allergic conditions associated with asthma that suggest high immune activity that can cause any wheezing. People with asthma do not always have physical symptoms.
Asthma tests: Pulmonary function tests are another component of asthma diagnosis. It determines how much air a person receives and the speed at which he throws air out of his lungs. Spirometry testing may be an indicator of lung function. In this test, the hose is connected to a machine called a spirometer and displays 2 important measurements. These:
- The maximum amount of air the patient can breathe
- The maximum amount of air the patient can breathe in 1 second.
Measurements below normal indicate obstructed airways and possible asthma. The physician will often administer a bronchodilator medication to open the air passages before retesting with a spirometer to confirm the diagnosis. If the outcome improves after use, the risk of asthma diagnosis is increased.
Other Tests: A bronchoprovocation test, also known as difficulty testing, involves the application of an airway constriction, such as cold air, to intentionally trigger airway obstruction and asthma symptoms.
The doctor may use allergy tests to identify substances that may cause or worsen asthma. These tests do not completely diagnose asthma, but may help the physician understand the nature of asthma symptoms.
The doctor may test them using the following methods:
- Chest X-ray
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
- Complete blood count
- CT scans of the lungs
- Gastroesophageal reflux assessment
- Sputum or sputum induction and examination
There is no definitive treatment for asthma. However, early detection of this disease is highly controlled. Coordination between the doctor and the patient is very important during the treatment phase. The main goal of treatment is to alleviate symptoms.
Anti-inflammatory drugs are the most important drugs for most people with asthma. Anti-inflammatory drugs reduce respiratory swelling and mucus production. As a result, the airways are much less sensitive and less likely to react to the causes that trigger attacks. Such medicines may need to be taken daily or may need to be taken a few weeks before starting asthma control. Anti-inflammatory drugs result in fewer symptoms, better airflow, less sensitive airway, airway damage, and fewer asthma attacks.
Bronchodilators relax the tightening muscle bands around the airways. This movement opens the airways, allows more air to enter the lungs and improves breathing. When the airways are opened, the mucus moves more freely and the patient can cough more easily. Asthma medications can be taken in several ways. Medications given by the doctor should be used meticulously.