Coughing, Tightness In Chest Or Wheezing? It Can Be Asthma
Asthma is a lung disease that make the bronchial tubes to inflame and swell. Bronchial tubes are airways that carry air into and out of the lungs. The inflammation and swelling narrows down the airways and make them highly sensitive thus leading to recurring periods of wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and chest tightness.
It is a chronic disease that often starts during childhood but can affect people of all ages.
Generally the airways in the human body, when certain substances are inhaled, react very strongly. This in-turn causes the muscles around them to tighten up, leading to poor air to flow into the lungs. Also, the cells in the airways may produce more mucus than normal. The thick, sticky mucus constricts breathing even further.
This chain reaction can cause the asthma symptoms.
There can be many causes of asthma and pointing out to one exact reason is not possible. It also may well be possible that certain causes do not trigger asthma in some people while the same ones may aggravate in others and vice versa.
Certain genetic and environmental factors play a role cause asthma, most often early in life. These factors are:
- A condition known as Atopy, which is where an individual inherits the tendency to develop allergies, making the airways even more reactive to irritants like tobacco smoke
- Family history, specially parents who have asthma
- Certain respiratory infections during childhood
- Exposure to and coming in contact with certain airborne allergens like dust, animal fur, pollen
- Aggressive viral infection like flu, colds in early childhood while the immune system of the body is still developing
- Certain non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Toxic irritants like cigarette smoke, dust, air pollution or chemicals
Signs & Symptoms
There are times when the symptoms can be alleviated by a prescribed course of medical treatment. However, this isn’t always the case. An asthma attack is the result of aggravated or intense breakdown caused by flareups and exacerbations.
Treating them is of extreme importance as they can prove to be very harmful and even fatal.
Common signs and symptoms include:
- Coughing, which is worse at night or early in the morning.
- While breathing, a whistling or squeaky sound can be heard. This is also known as wheezing.
- Tightness or heaviness in chest
- Shortness of breath or the feeling of being out of breath.
Not all those who have asthma have these symptoms. Similarly, not all of whom have these symptoms have asthma as they are a common to multiple respiratory diseases and infections.
Lung function test in combination to a physical exam and a thorough knowledge of the medical history of the individual and family is the best way to diagnose asthma. It gives a better picture of the type and frequency of symptoms and their severity.
- Physical exam
- Performing spirometry, which is a certain test to measure the amount of air an individual can breathe in and out in one forced breath. This indicates wellness of the health of the lungs.
- Allergy testing to know the particular allergens affecting, if there are any.
- Performing bronchoprovocation, which is a certain test to measure how sensitive your airways are.
- A certain test to know if there is a possibility of another condition with the same symptoms as asthma, like reflux disease, vocal cord dysfunction or sleep apnea.
- Chest X-ray or ECG (electrocardiogram) to know if a foreign object or other disease may be causing the symptoms.
Managing The Disease
- Medicines in asthma is generally given through the inhaled route. An effective method to take an asthma medicine is to inhale it as the medicine will reach the lungs directly. Also, asthma being an inflammatory disease, the preventer medication should at no point be discontinued without consulting a licensed medical professional.
- If there are episodes of acute asthma attacks, then short courses of corticosteroid and other drugs maybe required. These drugs can be given orally or can be injected in the patient’s body. But as stressed earlier, no drugs or medications are to be given without consulting a licensed medical professional.
- A very important point is that the asthma patient should learn the proper and accurate method of using any inhalation devices from their doctor. The devices are used to administer medication to the patient and should always be carried by him/her.
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