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What is Asthma?

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

Asthma is a chronic condition that causes inflammation, swell, produces extra mucus and narrow the lungs airway. People who have had this chronic condition for a long time or recurrent is said to be asthmatic.


History of Asthma

  • The term asthma comes from the Greek word aazein, which means to exhale through an open mouth, pant and sharp breath.

  • 460 BC- Hippocrates (460 BC) was the first to use asthma as panting and respiratory distress. Many physicians considered him that who identified the relation between respiratory disease & the environment.

  • 327 BC- smoking the herb stramonium ( an anticholinergic agent related to ipratropium and tiotropium, which are currently used in inhalers today) was used to help relax the lungs

  • 100 AD – Aretaeus of Cappadocia, a Greek physician, is credited with the first accurate description of asthma as we know it today. He wrote symptoms include chest heaviness, difficulty in breathing and tiredness.

  • A Jewish physician & scholar named Maimonides (1135-1204 AD) prescribed sleep, fluids, and chicken soup. He noted that his patient’s symptoms worsened during the wet months, which proceeded to the person gasping for air and coughing until phlegm was expelled.

Types of Asthma

Child onset asthma: For some children’s the onset of asthma may begin during childhood. Due to genetic reasons, the child may become sensitized to common allergens in the environment. The child is a topic- generally in the state of hypersensitivity due to environmental allergens. Allergens are substances that act as a foreign body that triggers the immune to respond.

Adult-Onset Asthma: the hen a person develops asthma after reaching 20 years of age. Adult-onset asthma affects women more than men, and it is also much less common than child-onset asthma. It is some allergic materials or allergy triggers. The cause of adult-onset asthma seems to be triggered by exposure to the allergens called nonallergic adult-onset asthma. This type of nonallergic asthma is also called intrinsic asthma. Exposure to chemicals, plastics, metals, certain medicines, or wood dust can cause adult-onset asthma.

Exercise-Induced Asthma: After exercise, if you feel difficulty breathing or wheezing, then you could be suffering from exercise-induced asthma. Obviously, your fitness level is also a factor – a person who is unfit and runs fast for ten minutes is going to be out of breath. However, if your coughing, wheezing or panting does not make sense, this could indicate exercise-induced asthma. Some exercise may cause the inflammation of airway tubes or bronchial, and thus it results in asthma.

Cough-Induced Asthma: Cough-induced asthma is one of the most difficult asthma to diagnose. The doctor must eliminate other possibilities, such as chronic bronchitis, postnasal drip due to hay fever, or sinus disease. In this case, the coughing can occur alone, without other asthma-type symptoms being present. The coughing can happen at any time of day or night. If it happens at night, it can disrupt sleep.

Nocturnal Asthma: It occurs only during night time from night to 8 am. It is due to the dust and pet dander or may be due to a sinus condition. The patient may have wheezing or short breath when lying down and may not notice these symptoms until awoken by them in the middle of the night – usually between 2 and 4 am. Night-time symptoms may also be a common problem in those with daytime asthma.

  • Steroid-Resistant Asthma (Severe Asthma): In some steroid therapy, the patient responds to regularly inhaled glucocorticoid (steroid) therapy due to steroid resistance. By reducing airway inflammation and immune activation, glucocorticoids are used to treat asthma. However, patients with steroid-resistant asthma have higher levels of immune activation in their airways than do patients with steroid-sensitive (SS) asthma.

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It’s not clear why people get asthma, but probably due to some allergic, genetic and environmental factors. Asthma triggers are different from person to person. Some of the causes of asthma are as follows:

  • Air pollution and smoke

  • Cold air

  • Emotions and stress

  • Tobacco smoke

  • Atopy

  • Gene

  • Allergies such as dust, mites, fungi, and cockroaches

  • Certain medication such as including beta blockers, aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen (Aleve)

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition in which stomach acids back up into your throat.

Risk factors

Some of the risk factors that may cause the risk of having asthma are as follows:

  • Being a smoker

  • Exposure to occupational triggers, such as chemicals used in farming, hairdressing, and manufacturing

  • Having a blood relative (such as a parent or sibling) with asthma

  • Having another allergic condition, such as atopic dermatitis or allergic rhinitis (hay fever)

  • Being overweight

  • Second-hand smoking

  • Exposure to exhaust fumes or other types of pollution

  • Obesity is the greater risk of getting asthma.

Effects of asthma

  • Stress, anxiety and depression.

  • pneumonia (infection of the lungs)

  • Lung collapse

  • Respiratory failure, where the levels of oxygen in the blood become dangerously low, or the levels of carbon dioxide become dangerously high

  • Status asthmaticus which do not respond to treatment).


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