Asthma is a global chronic disease, affecting an estimated 235 million people worldwide. Often underplayed, and not taken as seriously as it should be, asthma sufferers worldwide face a lifelong management of their symptoms. Asthma occurs in all countries, regardless of their wealth and development status, and its prevalence is widespread. There are several different types of asthma, but as a chronic disease, all types are often under-diagnosed and under-treated causing problems for asthma sufferers of all types. Asthma is also the most frequently occurring chronic disease in children.
Asthma is a respiratory condition characterised by spasmodic attacks of the bronchi (the narrow airways) of the lungs. The result for the sufferer is difficulty breathing that produces a range of slightly different symptoms, from wheezing to coughing, and chest tightness to a shortness of breath.
Asthma is a respiratory condition characterised by spasmodic attacks of the bronchi (the narrow airways) of the lungs. The result for the sufferer is difficulty breathing that produces a range of slightly different symptoms, from wheezing to coughing, and chest tightness to a shortness of breath. Asthma is a common chronic disease involving inflammation of the airways. It is incurable although symptoms may develop and ease at different points in a sufferer’s lifetime.
How one person experiences asthma often differs to another, with ‘attacks’ happening at different frequencies, lasting for different lengths, and requiring different management. Some asthmatics find their symptoms are worse at night or in the early morning.
Asthma is an umbrella term for a collection of symptoms caused by inflammation of the airways of the lungs. There are several different types – an individual with asthma may suffer with only one type, or multiple forms.
Broadly asthma can also be sub-characterised as intrinsic or extrinsic. Simply, these terms refer to whether the asthma is an allergic type (extrinsic), the most common type of asthma, or a form that develops in middle adulthood, often following a respiratory tract infection (intrinsic).
More specific types of asthma come under the following categories:
Childhood Asthma: Asthma is common in children and a child’s symptoms may develop and subside over the childhood years, potentially disappearing altogether.
Occupational Asthma: Occupational asthma represents breathing difficulties that result from conditions in the workplace, for example dust inhaled when working in agriculture, or chemical fumes within a manufacturing environment.
Difficult to Control & Severe Asthma: This subset of asthma sufferers experience symptoms at the more extreme end of the scale. Most will respond to medication and asthma management plans, but a small proportion do not.
Adult Onset Asthma: It is not unusual for asthma to develop as an adult, and whilst some of these sufferers may develop symptoms as a result of allergy development, asthma can also be triggered by infections, exercise, hormonal changes and some medicines.
Seasonal Asthma: This type of asthma refers to sufferers who only experience symptoms at a particular time of year, for example when the pollen-count is high or in periods of cold weather.
With asthma there are two categories of risk: risk-factors that heighten an individual’s likelihood of developing asthma, and risk-factors to known asthmatics. Both areas of risk can, to some degree, be reduced. With asthma it is important to remember that whilst it is both chronic and incurable, in the vast majority of cases it is manageable. Asthma symptoms can be managed to reduce the risks the disease poses.
Genetic Asthma Risks: having a close family blood relative who suffers with asthma will increase the likelihood of you developing, or being born with, the disease. Asthma tends to run in families.
Allergies: Individuals with known allergic conditions are more likely to develop asthma, for example it is quite common for those with hay fever to also suffer from asthma.
Obesity: An individual’s weight can increase the likelihood of developing asthma. Likewise, symptoms of asthma can be reduced by maintaining a healthy weight.
Smoking and Secondary Smoke Inhalation: Smoking increase the risk of asthma as does exposure to second-hand smoke, for example a child living with smoking parents.
Pollution: Exposure to exhaust, fumes and pollution can trigger or exacerbate asthma symptoms.
Occupational Risks: Certain occupational factors can increase the risk of developing asthma, for example working in certain divisions of agriculture and chemical production.
As with many chronic diseases, the key to living with asthma is having an adequate and frequently reviewed and adapted management plan. The aim of asthma management is to reduce the impact of the asthma symptoms on your life. Generally, the best approach for doing this involves utilising a ‘step-up/step-down’ approach escalating or de-escalating interventions as and when needed (link: http://patient.info/doctor/management-of-adult-asthma).
For asthma sufferers, self-awareness and a good level of self-management is essential. Educating asthma sufferers on how they can improve and alleviate their symtoms is vital, including lifestyle factors such as weight reduction, or stopping smoking, and effective inhaler technique.
There are generally considered to be five steps to good asthma management:
Step 1: the usage of inhaled short-term beta₂ agonist for the symptomatic relief of asthma when attacks occur.
Step 2: the use of inhaled steroids on a regular basis with the aim of preventing symptoms.
Step 3: if steps 1 & 2 aren’t proving adequate for symptom control then it is time to look at add-on therapy using inhaled long-acting beta₂ agonist steroids such as salmeterol or formoterol.
Step 4: The next step is to work at increasing dosages.
Step 5: The final step in the escalation process is continuous or frequent use of oral steroids.
At WizeLife we believe in bringing health information, tailored specifically to you, to your inbox via a simple, easy, online assessment. Compiled by medical experts using a plethora of the most up to date medical studies, we can assess your risk factors for chronic diseases such as Asthma. However, knowledge is power and so we go beyond this. We actively give you information and advice based on your known health risks compared to a perfectly healthy virtual patient, and advise you on what you can do to target elevated risks and reduce them in line with an ideal health basis, making you healthier and less at risk. For tips on managing and reducing the risks associated with Asthma, take our 7-minute test now.
New Year, New Diet? Do It the Smart Way
What is WizeLife?