Asthma: everything you need to know

Written by: Dr Ana de Ramon
Edited by: Aoife Maguire

Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that affects millions of people worldwide. This condition can significantly impact an individual's daily life and, if left unmanaged, may lead to severe complications. Renowned respiratory consultant Dr Ana de Ramon answers every question you need to know about the condition.



What is asthma?


Asthma is a chronic lung disease characterised by inflammation of the airways, resulting in their narrowing and increased sensitivity. This inflammation leads to recurring episodes of wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. While asthma is a long-term condition, proper management can help individuals lead a normal and active life.


What causes asthma?


The exact cause of asthma is not fully understood, but it is believed to result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.


Common asthma triggers include the following:


  • Allergens (such as pollen, pet dander, and mould).
  • Respiratory infections.
  • Physical activity.
  • Air pollution.
  • Exposure to tobacco smoke.


Understanding and avoiding these triggers play a crucial role in managing asthma effectively.


What are the symptoms of asthma?


Asthma symptoms vary from person to person, and their intensity can range from mild to severe. Common signs of asthma include the following:


  • Wheezing.
  • A whistling sound when breathing.
  • Persistent coughing (especially at night).
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Chest tightness.


Identifying these symptoms early is essential for timely intervention and management.


How is asthma diagnosed?


Diagnosing asthma involves a combination of medical history assessment, physical examination, and pulmonary function tests. These tests, such as spirometry, measure the amount and speed of air exhaled, helping healthcare professionals assess the severity of airway obstruction.


Additionally, allergy tests may be conducted to identify specific triggers contributing to asthma symptoms.


How can asthma be managed on a daily basis?


Managing asthma on a daily basis involves a combination of medication, lifestyle adjustments, and regular monitoring. Controller medications, such as inhaled corticosteroids, help control inflammation, while rescue inhalers provide quick relief during acute symptoms.


Individuals with asthma should also identify and avoid triggers, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and follow a personalised asthma action plan provided by their healthcare provider.


Can asthma attacks be prevented?


While asthma attacks cannot always be completely prevented, proactive measures can significantly reduce their frequency and severity. This includes taking prescribed medications regularly, identifying and avoiding triggers, maintaining good indoor air quality, and staying informed about asthma management techniques. Regular check-ups with healthcare providers are essential to adjust treatment plans as needed.


What are the long-term effects of asthma?


Unmanaged asthma can have long-term consequences, potentially leading to decreased lung function over time. Chronic inflammation may result in airway remodelling, making it essential to prioritise ongoing management and adhere to prescribed treatments. However, with proper care, most individuals with asthma can lead a fulfilling life, participating in daily activities and achieving their goals.





If you would like to book a consultation with Dr de Ramon, do not hesitate to do so by visiting her Top Doctors profile today

By Dr Ana de Ramon
Pulmonology & respiratory medicine

Dr Ana de Ramon is a highly esteemed and experienced respiratory consultant who specialises in respiratory-related sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnoea, asthma, interstitial lung diseaseschronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), long COVID-19, as well as breathlessness and cough. She currently practices at the Surrey-based BMI The Runnymede Hospital as well as the BMI The Princess Margaret Hospital in Windsor. 

Dr de Ramon, who officially qualified as a medical professional in 1991, has worked as a consultant respiratory physician in the UK since 2004. She possesses a significant interest in sleep-related respiratory problems and non-invasive sleep ventilation, and has notably established departments specifically designed for these specific areas of respiratory medicine in both her native Spain (in Madrid) as well as in Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Trust. 

Dr de Ramon's work is primarily founded on providing excellent, efficient, clear and evidence-based care, with a patient-comes-first approach. Impressively, she has, to-date, set up and run two comprehensive sleep services in Madrid, Spain, and in Warrington & Halton Hospitals NHS Trust.

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