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Overview and Facts

Asthma is a common chronic disease that affects millions of people all around the world. Symptoms of the disease occur because the muscles in the airways, called the bronchi muscles, start to spasm and contract. The contraction of the bronchi muscles causes the airway of an individual suffering from asthma to become so small that airflow to the lungs becomes constricted. An asthma attack can make it very hard for patients to both inhale and exhale at a healthy rate. Asthma is divided into two distinct categories, intrinsic and extrinsic. An intrinsic asthma attack is defined as an attack that occurred without any outside cause. An extrinsic attack is caused when patients somehow inhale a foreign trigger, which starts the attack.

Signs and Symptoms

Asthma attacks can be caused by a wide variety of outside factors, or none at all. However, most suffering from asthma understand that certain things are more likely to trigger an attack. Some common environmental causes, which make an asthma attack much more likely when inhaled, include: dust, pet allergens, environmental pollution, existing infections, cigarette and cigar smoke, industrial chemicals, and physical as well as emotional exhaustion. Any of these are common causes that can help make an asthma attack more likely. Once an asthma attack starts the symptoms experienced can include:

  • Breathing normally becomes very difficult
  • An individual’s pulse and blood pressure will increase
  • Heavy wheezing and coughing
  • A very tight chest
  • Emotional fear and panic

Causes and Diagnosis

Unfortunately, the exact cause of asthma is not yet known. However, it is generally accepted by the medical community that asthma occurs in individuals because they have the right combination of family genetics and environmental exposure. It is common for young children with an unlucky combination of genes and environment to show symptoms of asthma at a very young age. Asthma is children is becoming more and more common as environmental factors are steadily rising. The genetic factors that can help make it more likely a particular child or individual will have asthma include:

  • If a child’s parents also have asthma
  • If a child was exposed to respiratory infections at a young age
  • If a child came in contact with airborne allergies before their immune system started developing
  • In a child came in contact with a viral infection as an infant

Tests and Treatments

Asthma can only be reliably diagnosed by a certified healthcare professional. Doctors use the information in a person’s medical history, and a physical exam to make an asthma diagnosis. In most cases doctors will have patients perform a series of breathing tests, like lung function exams, which help figure out how severe an individual’s asthma is. A spirometry test will almost certainly be given. This test measure the amount of air a patient can breathe in and out. Having asthma properly diagnosed is very important, especially if an individual has suffered a potentially deadly attack.
There is no cure for asthma; it is a chronic disease that can affect individuals for the duration of their life. So treatment of the disease is done by finding the best way to manage the negative and dangerous symptoms associated with an attack. Asthma is usually treated with medicines that control both long term symptoms and short term symptoms. This is done by combining the use of an inhaler, used every day, and a fast acting inhaler, used when symptoms arise suddenly and unexpectedly. Asthma medicines are also commonly prescribed in pill form. However, an asthma inhaler is a much more common form of treatment. Many asthma sufferers are aware that symptoms occur when they are exposed to certain things, so many users can successfully lower their risks of an attack by avoiding their individual triggers.

Tips and Home Remedies

Many asthma sufferers have found that certain herbs and natural medicines can have a positive effect managing their symptoms. Inhaling steam and natural oils is a common alternative form of treatment for asthma. Aromatherapy has been used for thousands of years, and is believed to have powerful relaxation capabilities. However, these natural methods will not replace a fast acting inhaler. Coffee has been shown to relax the bronchi muscles. Theobromine and theophylline, found in coffee, are two natural compounds that can help stop symptom causing bronchospasms.

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