Asthma is a chronic, lifelong lung disease that causes inflammation of the airways. This, in turn, can trigger difficulty breathing, persistent coughing (especially in the morning and at night), wheezing or whistling when breathing, shortness of breath, and tightening of the chest.
Symptoms can range from mild, resolving themselves with little medical intervention. But severe symptoms can be life threatening. This is why managing the disease is vital.
Early signs of asthma include:
- Frequent cough, especially during night-time
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest tightening.
- Feeling tired or weak when working out.
- Wheezing or coughing after exercise or in general.
- Decreases in lung function (measured at hospital).
Risk Factors for getting Asthma
While an exact cause of asthma remains unknown, some risk factors are thought to exacerbate it. This includes allergies, smoking, infections and stress. Other research has suggested that asthma may actually be linked to a prenatal vitamin A deficiency.
Asthma early on in life occurs more often in boys and it evens out around the age of 20 when boys airways are the same size as girls. After 40, more females tend to get adult asthma. There is also a greater risk of asthma when the parents have it.
When it comes to treatment, the most important thing is to control the symptoms and to avoid any known triggers. Some medications are effective in providing immediate, short-term relief. Albuterol is a drug called a bronchodilator. It works by relaxing airway muscles, which allows for better airflow. Albuterol is fast acting and can be administered via an inhaler or nebulizer during an asthma attack. This kind of medication is delivered on the spot on an as-needed basis. Steroids are typically used to prevent asthma symptoms (as opposed to treating an asthma attack already in progress). A 2014 study actually touted the benefits of Botox as an effective asthma treatment. When injected directly into the vocal cords, Botox was shown to improve asthma control and reduce narrowing of the upper airway for 60 percent of patients involved in the study. Making certain environmental modifications can help ease asthma symptoms, as well. Dehumidifiers can help. Cleaning and regularly dusting is also recommended. A pulmonary doctor is a specialist who can help asthma sufferers develop a specific treatment plan that’s tailored to their needs. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in two people with asthma had an asthma attack in 2008. However, many could have been prevented. What’s more is that asthma cost the U.S. roughly $56 billion in 2007, according to the CDC.