Asthma medically is defined as a respiratory disease in which spasm and constriction of the bronchial passages and swelling of their mucous lining cause obstruction in breathing. The occurrence of this disease is often attributed to allergens, such as dust, smoke, cold air, exercise, animal fur or feathers, moulds, and pollen. Allergic asthma is also known as atopic or extrinsic asthma. Many people with allergic asthma also suffer from hay fever, which is an allergic reaction, usually to airborne pollen, of the upper respiratory tract and the eyes, characterized by nasal discharge, sneezing, and itchy watery eyes. Asthma in adults is less likely to be caused by allergies. Non-allergic asthma is called intrinsic asthma.
The frequency and the extreme in which asthma symptoms occur vary from one individual to another. Most attacks occur at night, which begins with coughing or wheezing and obstruction of breath, but in some people a dry cough may be the only symptom. To avoid this, you should have your mattress and pillows sealed in a plastic covering, no curtains and you should have hard wood floors in your bedroom, instead of rugs or carpets.
Between 1979-1980 and 1993-1994, the estimated national number of asthma – related hospitalization cases increased from 3,86,000 to 4,66,000. Hospitalization rates for asthma were consistently higher among blacks than they were among whites. During 1988-1994, asthma hospitalization rates increased in the northeast but decreased in the West and midwest. Asthma hospitalization rates were highest among people 0-4 years of age and lowest among people 15-34 years of age. Complications of severe asthma can sometimes prove fatal and may result in death of the patient. Although this is rare, the number of asthma cases and asthma-related deaths increased by 40 per cent between 1982 and 1995. The cause for this increase in unknown.
Asthma attacks may recur in hours or days or may not recur for months or even years. A status asthmatic, a prolonged attack that continues despite treatment with prescribed drugs, is a severe and sometimes fatal form of an asthma attack. Two important points have to be kept in mind for the treatment of asthma: (1) Keep the symptoms from starting in the first place. The best way to do this is to always follow your asthma management plan that your physician developed for you as an individual. The patient needs to follow this plan even when he or she doesn’t have any asthma symptoms. For example, skin testing by an allergist may determine your allergies, and periodic desensitizing injections of small amounts of these substances over several years may be helpful. Bronchial dilators, anti-inflammatory, and steroid medications can help prevent attacks. Skills involved with the use of inhaled medication, nebulisers, and the use of peak flow metres, (an early warning device) control things that trigger asthma attacks, and having occasional pulmonary function test, (measures airflow in the lungs) can also be beneficial treatments to control asthma attacks. (2) Spotting symptoms, which are getting ugly before they worsen, is another asthma treatment. This allows you to treat the symptoms early, when they are the easiest to control. Recently a new treatment was developed in the form of Leukotriene antagonist – by blocking leukotriene chemicals released from allergic cells, which cause spasms of the airways. It’s accolade and marked by Smith – Kline. It is administered twice a day and has significant side effects. Zileuton is administered four times a day and has been associated with liver function abnormalities, and the patient must be monitored. The cost of these two pills is comparable, and is for the use of people who do not like to use bronchial dilator inhalers.
Asthma patients can live a long and fulfilled life under the advice of their physician, and following their personal asthma management plan. Although there are few cases of death during asthma attacks, they are the exception more than the “norm”. Research has shown that now it is possible to lead a healthy and normal despite being affected by the asthma.