Q: Good afternoon Dr, can asthma be cured & how can I live with asthma or how do I prevent/ minimize attacks?
A: Asthma is a disease of the lungs which manifests as difficulty in breathing. The severity differs from person to person and it can develop in both adults and children. There is no cure for asthma but it can be controlled.
The cause of asthma is not really known but appears to run in families. Other people who are more at risk of developing this include those with other allergies, those born pre-mature or with a low birth weight and those who were exposed to tobacco smoke in the womb (having a mother who smoked) etc.
In asthma, the airways (the passage/pipes through which air passes to and from the lungs) are sensitive and easily irritated. When this irritation occurs, the airways narrow and the muscles around them squeeze tightly; the airways further get swollen and produce thick mucous which worsen the problem of air actually passing through the airways.
The patient, during an attack, would typically complain of cough, wheezing (this sounds like whistling), and difficulty in breathing and tightness in the chest. The ‘things’ that can irritate these airways are called triggers and include dust, tobacco smoke, cold air, exercise, allergens like pollen, dust mite, feathers etc, some drugs (like those in the same class of drugs as ibuprofen), emotional disturbances (stress) etc
An attack can be acute in which case a trigger causes an attack that happens pretty quickly or the attack could be chronic, in which frequent irritations of the airways has led to an airway that is permanently narrowed. People diagnosed as asthmatics during their childhood days are likely to ‘grow out of it’. However, this may also return during the adult years, especially if they had the moderate or severe type.
Treatment is usually individualized and is based on severity of symptoms, age and triggers. They range from inhalers used to provide quick relief by opening up swollen airways to medications needed to prevent inflammation and thus, attacks.
Prevention is focused on preventing triggers: stop smoking and avoid second-hand smoke, reduce allergens like dust mites, discuss your exercise regime with your doctor, prevent respiratory infections by building up your immunity: eat healthy (more fruits and vegetables), exercise and keep within a healthy weight. Follow your action plan for treatment as prescribed by your doctor etc. For more on preventing allergens like the dust mite, please click on the link below
If you’re asthmatic, be sure to have your inhaler with you at all times, especially if you’re travelling and make sure you take your medications as prescribed. If an asthmatic finds that they have more frequent attacks and need to use their inhalers more frequently, these could be signs that their asthma is getting worse. If during an attack they have no relief from using their inhalers or have shortness of breath even when there is no attack per se, they should see their doctors immediately as these situations could be life threatening.
Have a good night y’all 😀