Asthma is a condition that causes swelling of the airways which results in the narrowing of the passage that carries air from the nose and mouth to the lungs. Due to the swelling, asthma can make it difficult to breathe and cause potentially life-threatening episodes. Asthma is also a fairly common condition among Americans, effecting approximately 25 million, which equals to about 1 in 13. In this Health Journal we are going to dive deeper into what Asthma is, what symptoms it may cause and what different types of asthma exist.
What is Asthma & what are the facts?
As mentioned above, asthma is a condition that causes swelling of the airways while also causing the production of excess mucus, making it very difficult to breathe. In addition to difficulty breathing, it can also trigger coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.
For some, asthma is only a minor nuisance, but it can be a major problem for others, interfering in their daily activities and possibly leading to a life-threatening asthma attack.
Although asthma cannot be cured, the symptoms can be controlled. We will dive deeper into the symptoms and how you can control them later on in this piece.
- 8 percent of adults and 7 percent of children suffer from asthma
- About 20 million U.S. adults age 18 and over have asthma
- Asthma is more common in adult women than adult men.
- It is the leading chronic disease in children, with currently around 5.1 million children being effected.
- Asthma is more common in boys than girls, but symptoms tend to decrease more in boys than girls as they become adults.
As with many conditions, it’s important to remember that symptoms can often vary from person to person, but there are some that are more commonly seen. We have listed a few of these symptoms below.
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness or pain
- Wheezing when exhaling, which is a common sign of asthma in children
- Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing.
- Coughing or wheezing attacks that are worsened by a respiratory virus, such as a cold or flu.
Signs that your asthma may be worsening:
- Asthma signs and symptoms that are more frequent and bothersome
- Increasing difficulty breathing, as measured with a device used to check how well your lungs are working (peak flow meter)
- The need to use a quick-relief inhaler more often.
For asthma, there are a variety of treatments that can be used depending on your specific type of asthma, your age and any other potential health problems.
Prevention and long term control are key to stopping an asthma attack before it starts. Treatment usually involves learning what triggers are specific to your asthma, taking steps to avoid them and tracking your breathing to ensure your medication is keeping the symptoms under control.
As always it’s important to contact your primary care physician for their recommendation.
Different types of asthma
Asthma is the broad name for the condition but there are sub groups within asthma that may be specific to some people. Below we have listed a few of the different types of asthma, what they mean and how they are different from each other.
- Adult Onset Asthma: Some people don’t show signs of having asthma until well into adulthood. What exactly causes adult onset asthma is not known for certain but there are a few possible factors. Most commonly, people manage to essentially avoid their asthma triggers for years but when they are exposed to them for the first time as an adult, it brings about the symptoms. For example, one might move in with a roommate for the first time who has a pet or they may work around certain chemicals they hadn’t been exposed to before.
- Allergic Asthma: There is often a connection between allergies and asthma, but not everyone who has allergies has asthma and not everybody who has asthma has allergies. However, it is common for allergens such as pollen, dust and pet dander to trigger asthma attacks and symptoms in certain people.
- Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB): This is the preferred term for what has long been known as exercised-induced asthma. Symptoms of EIB develop as a result of physical activity and as many as 90 percent of people with asthma also have EIB. EIB is common and is even seen in many world-class athletes, so if managed correctly it should allow you to continue to exercise and perform at a high level.
- Occupational asthma: This specific type of asthma is most commonly seen in people who work around chemical fumes, dust or other irritants in the air. Even if you have been diagnosed with asthma that has another cause, it can be made worse by airborne irritants.