Asthma is a health condition that makes it hard to breathe during moments of decreased airway flow. The sensation of suffering an asthma attack can be compared to trying to breathe through a straw. Dr Amit Patel is a leading UK consultant respiratory physician with a wealth of experience in the treatment of asthma, among other conditions. In this article, he highlights the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of asthma.
What is asthma?
Asthma is a condition that affects the lungs’ airways by causing them to narrow and collapse. On the spectrum of severity, the condition can range from mild to severe. At its worst, and particularly during times of flareups, asthma can negatively impact a person’s quality of life and can be life-threatening.
What are the symptoms?
Asthma symptoms vary from person to person. They can happen with varying frequency and at different times but are often worse at night. Among the most common symptoms of asthma are:
In those with asthma, needing to use inhalers more frequently can be a sign of worsening control.
What are the causes of asthma?
At present, the direct cause of asthma is not yet understood. There are numerous triggers which are known to exacerbate symptoms such as allergies to house dust mites, pollens, animal hair (most often from pets) or workplace exposures (for example chemicals).
Diagnosis and Treatment of asthma
A diagnosis is usually made through a careful history and physical examination as well as tests of lung function and airways inflammation. There may also be the need for allergy tests. Once a diagnosis of asthma has been made, there are a number of treatment options available. The treatments advised will depend on the severity of the condition and will also account for personal factors and triggers.
There is a range of medications which can help to keep the condition under control over the long term but the mainstay is usually inhalers. These are usually steroid-based and will have other components depending on severity. A ‘reliever’ is often prescribed and this is usually called salbutamol. It can help with increased symptoms but it does not have an impact on improving asthma overall. In some patients, novel biologic agents may be necessary and these are prescribed at specialist centres.
Visit Dr Amit Patel’s profile to learn how he can assist you in the diagnosis and/or management of asthma, along with many other respiratory conditions.