Asthma is a condition of the lungs that causes an obstruction of the airways. If feels like there is an inability to take in air, but it is actually the inability to release the spent breath. Although it meets many of the requirements for COPD, it is not one of the conditions included in the COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) umbrella, since that includes diseases that are considered irreversible, and asthma is considered reversible.
An Asthma Attack is a sudden onset of the acute symptomology defined as asthma. Its symptoms include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and mucous production. A blue discoloration of the nails and lips may occur due to lack of oxygen exchange!
There are different types of Asthma that can be identified by the symptoms, causes of onset, and response to treatment that occurs.
Brittle Asthma occurs in two types that are distinguished by reoccurring, severe attacks
Status Asthmaticus is when the Asthma Attack does not respond to standard treatment
Exercise-induced Asthma occurs with exercise, it tends to occur about 15 % of the time
with top athletes, and most commonly in cycling, mountain biking, and long distance
Occupational Asthma is caused by workplace exposure to irritants in the air. Most of the
time this type of Asthma will go undiagnosed or unreported completely. It can be brought
on by exposure to animal proteins, enzymes, flour, natural rubber latex, and certain
In an attempt to manage asthma symptoms it is vital that the ‘triggers’ that cause sudden attacks be identified and avoided. Some typical triggers are smoke (including cigarette), pet dander, aspirin, mold, air pollution, and other allergens. Once identified total avoidance is key to successful treatment, often allowing the prevention of medication being prescribed.
Where trigger avoidance is not sufficient to avoid an asthma attack medication is often recommended. There are several types of medicines used; quick-relief to stop sudden onset symptoms, and long-term control to prevent symptoms at all if possible.
The quick-relief drugs include the rescue inhalers that more and more people carry on a daily basis. The long-term medications also use a metered dose inhaler on occasion, but long-term incorporates the use of oral medications for control of symptoms.
When all else fails oxygen is administered, and/or Magnesium sulfate may be administered intravenously for its bronco-dilating effects. In the past drugs such as theophylline were used on a regular basis, but now they are not considered as effective as the inhaled beta-agonists.
In the next blog I will be looking at some of the alternative treatments now being utilized to manage the symptoms of Asthma…some of them are as old as the hills, some are new, some are old used in new ways!