Asthma is a very common respiratory disease whose prevalence has increased during the last few decades. It may soon become a major public health problem.
What Is Asthma?
The word asthma is derived from the Greek word ‘azein’ meaning panting. Rapid and labored breathing is a characteristic feature of this disease. It is mainly a clinical condition, which means that the disease is diagnosed by the physician based on clinical examination.
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways. Various inflammatory cells like mast cells, eosinophils, T. lymphocytes and macrophages are involved in the inflammatory process. There is also excessive mucus secretion which is activated due the irritants or allergens known as triggers. Because of the inflammation, the patient suffers from recurring cough and breathlessness. Along with this, the person may also develop airways obstruction, which may resolve spontaneously or after taking the proper medication. Attacks occur in episodes of clinical symptoms with patients experiencing a normal life between them.
The clinical features of this disease may vary from patient to patient. There is no universal or unique feature for the diagnosis of asthma. Some individuals may show bronchial hyper-responsiveness while some others may have respiratory obstructive disorder or eosinophilic inflammatory response. Even within a single patient, the intensity and frequency of the attack may vary. Besides this, the symptoms are also similar to other respiratory diseases.
Early Symptoms Of Asthma
Patients with this disease generally encounter the following symptoms:
• Shortness of breath, probably with exercise
• Feeling of tightness or pressure in the chest
• Coughing, which happens generally at night
• Wheezing sound during exhalation
It is also possible that patients may encounter some or all of these signs or may show some unusual signs like fatigue and anxiety. A proper clinical diagnosis by your doctor after conducting suitable tests such as peak flow meter test can indicate the nature and severity of this disorder.
Who is at Risk of Developing Asthma?
Asthma is a universal disease. No area on earth is free from asthmatic patients or no person is immune to asthma. In fact, the prevalence of this disease is on the rise. This disorder can affect people of all ages. But it is more common in childhood before the first decade of life. Almost a third of asthma patients are under the age of 18 years. It is rarely observed in the older age groups. In children, boys are more prone to developing asthma than girls. But there is no such sex differentiation observed in later age groups. Men and women are equally susceptible to this disease.
Factors responsible for Developing Asthma
There are many factors which can lead to the development of asthma in a person. People exposed to these factors or associated with them are at risk of getting affected by this disease.
Atopy or allergy is one of the major risk factors which can lead to the development of asthma. Most patients with asthma have allergies too. There are many allergens such as dust mites, cockroaches, mold and pollen. Also, air-borne irritants such as chemical fumes and tobacco can cause asthma. Patients with allergic asthma show other allergic conditions like allergic rhinitis, eczema or utricaria.
Patients who do not show any allergic reactions are said to have non-atopic asthma. In addition to this, there are other environmental factors like weather, occupation, viruses and exercise which can also cause this disease. Generally, allergic history is seen in children who develop asthma.
But with due care, proper medical advice and medications, it is possible to keep your asthma under control.