Around the globe, asthma is the cause of approximately 175,000 deaths per year, 4,000 of which are in the US alone. Asthma is a common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways, which causes airway constriction and results in shortness of breath or breathing restrictions. A trigger normally causes asthma attacks, which are an acute exacerbation of asthma disorders. A trigger is a specific stimulus that the person is exposed to that causes an increased responsiveness in the airways producing bronchospasms, and airway obstruction. This trigger varies from person to person and includes but is not limited to allergens, exercise, cold air, emotional stress, etc. When a person is having an asthma attack their symptoms can include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath.
Although we characterize asthma to be a disorder, in actuality it is our bodies own defense mechanism by shutting down and protecting our vital organs. The upper airway recognizes perceived danger such as allergens, toxins, and pollutants in the air and shuts down the airway to the more vulnerable lungs. However, without the proper treatment during asthma attacks our bodies can remain in this state ultimately causing death. Therefore it is important to recognize the symptoms and to react quickly.
Asthma can be caused by environmental or genetic factors. Several environmental factors have been associated with the development of asthma and increased risk of childhood morbidity. Some of these environmental factors are tobacco smoke, both in womb and out of the womb, low air quality, viral respiratory infections, caesarian sections, psychological stress, antibiotic use in early ages, and use of paracetamol. Some factors have only been associated with asthma and have not been researched thoroughly enough to be proven as a definite cause.
On the genetics side, over 25 genes have been associated with asthma over several sample studies. Although many of the genes are related to the immune system, there has not been enough consistency in the studies on asthma to definitively say that these genes in their specific make up cause asthma. However, the results do show that these genes cause asthma just not under every condition. Therefore further testing needs to be done to discover the interactions of these genes that do cause asthma.
The best way to treat asthma is to avoid factors that may trigger an attack. However easy it is to say that, this does not mean that an acute asthma attack will never happen, therefore attacks should be treated with medicines such as an inhaler. Inhalers contain salbutamol a short-acting selective beta2 adrenoceptor agonist. By quickly inhaling the medication the drug can target the lungs which will spread the medication throughout the body. Long term medications can be used as a preventative measure which include inhaling glucocorticoids. Preventative medication has shown improved symptom control and less acute attacks over a period of 12 hours.
Asthma can be anywhere from mild to life threatening, but can be controlled with a combination of drugs, inhalers and changes in lifestyle. Be proactive about your condition. Monitoring and managing the symptoms of asthma can prevent and decrease future attacks, and can allow for healthier, happier life.