Frequently Asked Questions about Asthma

Asthma is a condition that affects the airways in the lungs. Symptoms occur due to inflammation resulting from a reaction to infections or other triggers in the airway lining that makes the airways red, swollen, and more sensitive to irritants. Understand the different types, meaning, symptoms, diagnosis, causes, medication, and more about asthma with these Frequently Asked Questions about Asthma.

1. What causes or triggers asthma?

Asthma usually occurs due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors like:

  1. Family history of asthma

  2. Respiratory Infections

  3. Airborne substances: dust mites, pollen or spores, pet dander

  4. Air pollutants: smoke

  5. Medications

  6. Physical activity

  7. Allergic conditions

  8. Chemicals

  9. Smoking

2. What medications can cause asthma?

  1. Beta blockers: commonly used to treat high blood pressure, heart diseases and as eye drops for glaucoma

  2. ACE-Inhibitors: used for treating blood pressure and heart conditions

  3. Pain relievers

3. What are the types of asthma?

  1. Adult-onset asthma: signs of asthma are not seen until the adult age

  2. Allergic asthma: asthma caused due to dust, pollen or pet dander

  3. Non-allergic asthma: asthma occurring due to extreme climate, infections, and stress

  4. Asthma-COPD overlap: the condition occurs when a person has asthma as well as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

  5. Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction: symptoms occur only during exercise or physical activity

  6. Occupational asthma: caused due to work environment triggers like chemical fumes, pollens, dust, etc.

4. What is the difference between asthma and COPD?

  1. Asthma is a condition caused due to an inflammatory reaction in the airways of the lung and moreover, the allergic reactions can be reversed. It can affect people of any age.

  2. COPD is a progressive chronic disease affecting the lungs, mainly due to smoking habits. The condition develops in people over 40 years of age.

5. What are the signs and symptoms of asthma?

  1. Shortness of breath

  2. Wheezing or whistling sound while exhaling

  3. Coughing

  4. Chest tightness or pain

  5. Frequent respiratory infections

  6. Anxiety

  7. Early awakening

  8. Fast heart rate

6. What should be done to prevent asthma attacks?

  1. Follow your asthma action plan: with the help of your doctor, write a detailed plan for taking medications and handling asthma attacks.

  2. Monitor: regular monitoring of your breathing, condition and treatment effectiveness

  3. Vaccinations for influenza and pneumonia

  4. Consult your doctor if there is an increase in quick-relief inhaler use

  5. Identify and treat your attacks at an early stage

  6. Identify and prevent asthma triggers

7. How is asthma diagnosed?

  1. Physical examination

  2. Lung function test: Spirometry and Peak airflow

  3. Imaging tests

  4. Nitric oxide test: measures the amount of gas and nitric oxide in the breath, asthma patients have higher nitric oxide levels

  5. Methacholine challenge: a known asthma trigger, which when inhaled can cause mild airway constriction in asthma patients

  6. Sputum eosinophils: checks for the presence of eosinophils in the sputum discharge while coughing

  7. Allergy testing: performed by a skin or blood test

  8. Provocative testing: in case of exercise or cold-induced asthma

8. What are the complications of asthma?

If asthma is not managed well, it can cause:

  1. Pneumonia

  2. Consistent fatigue

  3. Respiratory failure

  4. Severe chest pain

  5. Frequent asthma flare-ups

  6. Status asthmaticus

9. How is asthma treated?

Every case of asthma is different and hence based on the condition, doctors will provide personalised treatment plan.

General ways include:

  1. Identifying and avoiding triggers

  2. Identifying the level of asthma toleration

  3. An emergency action plan for severe attacks

  4. Medications include: Long-term control medicines (reduces inflammation of the airway, resulting in decreased symptoms) and Quick-relief medicines (emergency medications for asthma attack)

  5. Medications can be in the form of oral pills or nebulizer/ inhaler

10. How can food habits affect asthma symptoms?

  1. Maintain a healthy weight: being obese can worsen asthma conditions

  2. Avoid allergy-causing foods

  3. Include plenty of fruits and vegetables: they are a good source of antioxidants that can help in reducing lung inflammation

  4. Avoid sulfites: they can trigger asthma. Sulfites are used as preservatives in pickles, dried fruits, wine, etc.

11. When should one visit the doctor?

  1. If you have frequent cough and wheeze lasting for longer days or other signs of asthma

  2. For monitoring your asthma condition after diagnosis

  3. If your symptoms worsen

  4. To review and monitor therapy outcomes

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