Asthma – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment & Home Remedies

Overview

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. If you have asthma, the inside walls of your airways become sore and swollen. That makes them very sensitive, and they may react strongly to things that you are allergic to or find irritating. When your airways react, they get narrower and your lungs get less air. It causes repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More than 26 million Americans have asthma, including 6.1 million children. It means approximately 1 in 13 people has asthma in America. It causes millions of lost school and work days every year and is the third leading cause of hospitalization among children. Its severity varies from person to person. For some people, asthma is a minor nuisance. For others, it can be a major problem that interferes with daily activities and may lead to a life-threatening asthma attack.

There are two types of asthma:

  • Allergic. This type is triggered by exposure to an allergen, such as mold or pet dander.
  • Non-allergic. This is brought on by factors such as stress, exercise, illness, extreme weather, irritants in the air and certain medications.

There is no cure for asthma, but fortunately it can be managed and treated, allowing you to live a normal, healthy life.

 

Symptoms

Asthma symptoms can vary from person to person. Some people may have:

  • infrequent asthma attacks;
  • symptoms only at certain times, such as when exercising;
  • symptoms all the time.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing, especially early in the morning or at night
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Trouble sleeping
  • A whistling or wheezing sound when exhaling

Not all people who have asthma have these symptoms. Having these symptoms doesn’t always mean that you have the disease. When your symptoms become worse than usual, it’s called an asthma attack. Severe asthma attacks may require emergency care, and they can be fatal.

 

Causes

The exact cause of asthma isn’t known. Researchers think it’s probably due to a combination of environmental and genetic (inherited) factors, most often early in life.
These factors include:

  • An inherited tendency to develop allergies, called atopy
  • Parents who have asthma
  • Certain respiratory infections during childhood
  • Contact with some airborne allergens or exposure to some viral infections in infancy or in early childhood when the immune system is developing
  • Physical activity (exercise-induced asthma)
  • Exposure to air pollutants and irritants, such as smoke
  • Strong emotions and stress

 

Diagnosis

Physical exam

Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask you questions about your signs and symptoms and about any other health problems.

Tests to measure lung function

  • Spirometry. This test estimates the narrowing of your bronchial tubes by checking how much air you can exhale after a deep breath and how fast you can breathe out.
  • Peak flow. A peak flow meter is a simple device that measures how hard you can breathe out. Lower than usual peak flow readings are a sign your lungs may not be working as well and that your asthma may be getting worse. Your doctor will give you instructions on how to track and deal with low peak flow readings.

Additional tests

Other tests to diagnose asthma include:

  • Imaging tests, including a chest X-ray and a CT scan of your lungs and nose cavities
  • Allergy testing to identify your allergy to pets, dust, mold or pollen
  • Methacholine challenge. Methacholine is a known asthma trigger. If you react to the methacholine, you likely have asthma.
  • Nitric oxide test to measure the amount of the gas, nitric oxide, that you have in your breath. If your airways are inflamed — a sign of asthma — you may have higher than normal nitric oxide levels.
  • Sputum eosinophils to for certain white blood cells in the mixture of saliva and mucus you discharge during coughing.
  • Provocative testing for exercise and cold-induced asthma. In these tests, your doctor measures your airway obstruction before and after you perform vigorous physical activity or take several breaths of cold air.

Classification of Asthma

The classification of asthma depends on the severity of the condition. It helps your doctor choose the best treatment. The disorder is classified into following four general categories:

  • Mild intermittent: mild symptoms up to two days a week and up to two nights a month
  • Mild persistent: symptoms more than twice a week, but no more than once in a single day
  • Moderate persistent: symptoms once a day and more than one night a week
  • Severe persistent: symptoms throughout the day on most days and frequently at night

Treatment

Each person’s asthma is different. You and your healthcare provider will work together to establish the best treatment plan based on your symptoms and needs. Treatment options include:

Medications

Your doctor will prescribe right medications for you depending on your age, symptoms, asthma triggers and what works best to keep your condition under control. Some medicines work quickly to relax your airways and help you breathe easier, while other treatments reduce the swelling and inflammation in your airways and prevent symptoms.

Quick-relief (rescue) medications

  • Short-acting beta agonists. These inhaled, quick-relief bronchodilators act within minutes to rapidly ease symptoms during an asthma attack. They include albuterol (ProAir HFA, Ventolin HFA, others) and levalbuterol (Xopenex).
  • Ipratropium (Atrovent). Like other bronchodilators, ipratropium acts quickly to immediately relax your airways, making it easier to breathe.
  • Oral and intravenous corticosteroids. These medications, including prednisone and methylprednisolone, relieve airway inflammation caused by severe asthma. However, they can cause serious side effects when used long term, so they’re used only on a short-term basis.

Long-term asthma control medications

  • Inhaled corticosteroids. These anti-inflammatory drugs include fluticasone (Flonase, Flovent HFA), budesonide (Pulmicort Flexhaler, Rhinocort), flunisolide (Aerospan HFA), ciclesonide (Alvesco, Omnaris, Zetonna), beclomethasone (Qnasl, Qvar), mometasone (Asmanex) and fluticasone furoate (Arnuity Ellipta).
  • Leukotriene modifiers. These oral medications — including montelukast (Singulair), zafirlukast (Accolate) and zileuton (Zyflo) — help relieve your symptoms for up to 24 hours.
  • Long-acting beta agonists. These inhaled medications, which include salmeterol (Serevent) and formoterol (Foradil, Perforomist), open the airways.
  • Combination inhalers. These medications — such as fluticasone-salmeterol (Advair Diskus), budesonide-formoterol (Symbicort) and formoterol-mometasone (Dulera) — contain a long-acting beta agonist along with a corticosteroid. Because these combination inhalers contain long-acting beta agonists, they may increase your risk of having a severe asthma attack.
  • Theophylline. Theophylline (Theo-24, Elixophyllin, others) is a daily pill that helps keep the airways open by relaxing the muscles around the airways. It’s not used as often now as in past years.

Allergy medications

  • Allergy shots (immunotherapy). The allergy shots can gradually reduce your immune system reaction to specific allergens. You generally receive shots once a week for a few months, then once a month for a period of three to five years.
  • Omalizumab (Xolair). This medication, given as an injection every two to four weeks, is specifically for people who have allergies and severe asthma.

Treatment for Severe Persistent Asthma

New treatments are available for patients with severe persistent asthma whose condition is not controlled with inhaled corticosteroids and long-acting bronchodilators. Below are types of severe persistent asthma and their available treatments.

  • Atopic or allergic asthma Anti-IgE (omalizumab)
  • Eosinophilic asthma Anti-IL 5 (mepolizumab, reslizumab and benralizumab)
  • Hyperreactive asthma Bronchial thermoplasty

Anti-IgE and Anti-IL5 therapies are given as an injection or IV every two to eight weeks depending on the dose and medication required. Bronchial thermoplasty is a treatment given through an outpatient procedure called a bronchoscopy (a flexible tube with a light on the end of it). During the procedure, bronchial thermoplasty heats the insides of the airways in the lungs with an electrode, reducing the smooth muscle inside the airways. This decreases the ability of the airways to tighten, making breathing easier and possibly reducing asthma attacks.

Lifestyle and home remedies

Although medications play an important role in preventing and relieving symptoms, you can do several things on your own to maintain health and lessen the possibility of asthma attacks:

  • Avoid your triggers
  • Maintain optimal humidity.
  • Use your air conditioner.
  • Decontaminate your decor.
  • Prevent mold spores.
  • Reduce pet dander.
  • Clean your room regularly.
  • Cover your nose and mouth if it’s cold out.

Stay healthy

  • Get regular exercise. Regular exercise can strengthen your heart and lungs, which helps relieve asthma symptoms.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can worsen asthma symptoms, and it increases your risk of getting other health problems.
  • Control heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It’s possible that the acid reflux that causes heartburn may damage lung airways and worsen asthma symptoms.

Fight asthma with herbs

Kampo

A traditional Chinese herbal remedy known as kampo helped to relieve daily asthma symptoms in nearly all of more than 200 people studied, Japanese researchers report.

Ginkgo

Ginkgo works to inhibit PAF (platelet activating factor), a potent inducer of platelet aggregator and anaphylactic reactions. Medicinal herbs that stimulate anti-PAF activity are known to assist in the treatment of asthma, allergic reactions, thrombosis and shock.

Coltsfoot

Coltsfoot  has been used medicinally as a cough suppressant.

Maritime pine bark

Studies from 2002 on a standardized extract from maritime pine bark, called Pycnogenol, indicate that the herb may be useful in reducing symptoms and enhance lung function in those who have asthma.

Turmeric

Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory in both acute and chronic conditions, and it is believed to work in a variety of biological pathways to reduce inflammation.

Licorice root

Licorice root has been used traditionally to restore breathing and calm the breathing passageways.

 

 

If you have any other problems, please ask your doctor for help.

 

Related posts:

What Are Reliefs and Remedies for Allergic Asthma?

What Are the Treatment Options for Severe Asthma?

What Are the Causes of Childhood Asthma?

What Are the Symptoms and Triggers of Bronchial Asthma?

What Are the Possible Triggers of Asthma?

What Is Immunotherapy for Allergic Asthma?

How to Treat Allergy-Triggered Asthma?

How Many Brands Are There for Asthma Inhalers?

 

 

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.