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Asthma: Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

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Asthma: Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Asthma is a chronic, inflammatory disease that affects the lungs and airways. The discomfort occurs due to non-microbial inflammation and is characterized by shortness of breath. Asthma is a chronic disease and full recovery can take many years. However, symptoms can be controlled if necessary treatments are applied and quality of life is ensured. The most common causes of asthma, which can be seen in both adults and childhood, are allergies and environmental factors. While some allergenic substances may cause asthma, smoking or passive smoking, coal-exhaust smoke, and chemicals may also predispose to the disease. Asthma may not appear the same in everyone. While it is mild in some patients, in others it can negatively affect daily activities and even be life-threatening. For a positive course of the disease, medication treatment should not be interrupted and regular doctor’s check-ups should not be neglected.

What is Asthma and What Causes It?

Asthma is a chronic disease that causes shortness of breath and causes inflammation in the airways. This inflammation is not caused by any microbe or infection, but is entirely a disease reaction produced by the body. The symptoms seen in asthma can affect people of all ages, including children, teenagers and adults. The discomfort may progress with abnormalities in the respiratory tract in the form of attacks. These attacks may occur at short intervals, such as once a week or a month, or at long-term intervals, such as once a year or every few years. When the causes of asthma are examined, it can be noticed that they range from negative environmental factors to stress or being overweight. Common causes of asthma include:

  • Mother’s smoking while in the womb
  • Being in places with phones or wireless internet or being exposed to cigarette smoke at a young age
  • Having a history of asthma or atopy in family members
  • born prematurely
  • Having hay fever, food allergies and eczema
  • Living in a moldy and humid environment
  • Long-term use of some medications
  • overweight status
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What is an Asthma Attack?

Asthma attack is a condition that occurs spontaneously or due to triggers, seen in people with severe disease. During an asthma attack, the muscles in the airways contract and the airways and bronchial tubes become inflamed and swollen. The mucous membrane in the tubes begins to produce thick mucus, which further blocks the airways. In this case, patients may become unable to breathe and suffer from severe shortness of breath. These symptoms may also be accompanied by a wheezing sound coming from the lungs. During attacks, the airways can be opened in a short time with interventions. Although the shortness of breath seen during attacks is relieved with inhaler medications taken through the air, the presence of more severe respiratory distress may require urgent medical attention. The important thing here is that the patient knows himself and the disease well. There may be early warning signs before asthma attacks. Following these signs and taking the necessary precautions can reduce or prevent the severity of attacks. Some early symptoms of asthma attacks may include:

  • Frequent and intermittent cough at night
  • Feeling of not being able to breathe while talking
  • Getting tired easily and feeling weak during exercise
  • Wheezing or coughing after exercise
  • Fatigue and reluctance in daily tasks
  • Decreased lung function according to breathing test
  • Some allergy symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Sleeping disorders

If the preliminary symptoms of asthma attacks are not noticed and necessary precautions are not taken, the attack may become severe. The main symptoms that can be seen in asthma attacks are as follows:

  • Severe wheezing while breathing
  • Cough that doesn’t stop
  • breathing too fast
  • Neck and chest tension
  • difficulty speaking
  • Bruising-like discoloration of lips and nails
  • Skin looks pale and sweating
  • Panic and anxiety disorder

Asthma Types

Asthma can be classified based on symptoms, genetic factors, and a person’s sensitivities. Although all types of asthma have some similar symptoms, they also have some distinguishing features. Common types of asthma can be listed as follows:

  • Allergic Asthma: Allergic Asthma is the most common type of asthma. Some symptoms occur in the form of inflammation of the nasal membrane and occur as a reaction of the body to allergen substances. These symptoms include swelling and redness of the nose, watery eyes, itchy throat and frequent sneezing.
  • Exercise-Induced Asthma: It is a type of asthma that occurs after exercise and work that requires effort. The most common symptoms are shortness of breath and wheezing cough.
  • Occupational Asthma: It is a type of asthma that develops as a result of inhaling trigger substances found in the workplace. Occupational asthma symptoms are only seen in the workplace environment and usually include symptoms such as nasal congestion, runny nose and Cough. Among the occupational groups frequently affected by this type of asthma are; miners, nurses, farmers, animal caretakers, hairdressers and woodworkers and painters.
  • Bronchial Asthma: The narrowing of the airways with asthma can irritate and sensitize the bronchi after a while. Bronchial asthma is a condition in which the bronchi overreact to external triggers due to this sensitivity.
  • Seasonal Asthma: In this type of asthma, symptoms and complaints occur at certain times of the year. For example, during the winter months, flu and colds and air pollution trigger asthma. Other factors that trigger seasonal asthma are; It may be pollen allergy, storm or sudden weather changes seen in the spring months.
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What are the Signs and Symptoms of Asthma?

Signs and symptoms of asthma vary from person to person. In this situation; Factors such as patients’ living conditions, working environment, and whether they use medication regularly may have an impact. However, the most characteristic symptoms of asthma are cough and shortness of breath. Shortness of breath occurs as a result of contraction of the muscles in the airways, mucous accumulation in the lungs and swelling in the bronchi. Symptoms; It may increase in cases of flu and cold, exposure to pungent odors, smoke or cooking fumes, or during exercise. Apart from these, complaints may tend to increase due to some other agents such as chemical fumes, exhaust gases, animal dander, cockroach waste, pet skin rashes, saliva or airborne microorganisms. In general, signs and symptoms of asthma may include:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing, wheezing
  • Chest tightness and pain

How to Treat Asthma?

The main goal of asthma treatment is to control the disease. This can be explained as keeping asthma-related complaints at a level that does not impair the person’s quality of life. Thanks to regular use of the given medication, patients can continue their lives with minimal complaints. Asthma patients need to be followed up with regular doctor checks, apart from drug treatments. Doctor’s check-ups are usually provided at periodic intervals such as 1, 3, 6 months after the diagnosis of the disease. During these checks, in addition to physical examinations, information about the course of the disease is obtained from the patient through asthma control inquiries and respiratory tests are performed. Doctors usually start stepwise treatment based on the disease history and tests performed. Step treatment is the adjustment of treatment according to the severity of the disease. Medication and inhaler (medical device used to deliver medication to the lungs through inhalation) are given as first-line treatment. Thus, the disease is tried to be controlled. If asthma symptoms decrease with the treatment started in this way, the dosage of the medications can be reduced. However, if there are any triggering factors that aggravate asthma, such as allergen contact, adverse environmental conditions or stress, the dose of medications may be increased. Doctors may sometimes prescribe oral steroid (cortisone) therapy to their patients to achieve maximum improvement in a short time.

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In cases where the complaints do not go away or show a tendency to decrease, patients may be hospitalized for a certain period of time and receive treatment. Since medications are often given intravenously in inpatient treatments, recovery can be achieved in a shorter time. Apart from this, in cases of progressive and worsening asthma, a surgical procedure called “bronchial thermoplasty” may be applied to some patients. In this procedure, a thin wire is inserted into the narrowed airways through the nose or mouth and heat treatment is applied. Bronchial thermoplasty can reduce the thickness of the thickened smooth muscle tissue due to inflammation in the airways, which makes breathing difficult.

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