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Bronchial asthma is an inflammatory disease of the airways which causes their narrowing with consequent breathing difficulties (dyspnea). It is usually a progressive disease occurring in the childhood, but it can affect persons of any age. Although many treatment options are available, there is still a significant number of patients with poorly regulated symptoms.

Causes Of Asthma

Based on the origin of the disease, it can be classified as allergic and non-allergic asthma. Allergic asthma is caused by allergens from the environment to which a person has an increased sensitivity. The most common allergens include: pollen of trees and grasses, dust mites, animal dander, etc. Other substances including pollutants can aggravate the symptoms of asthma, even though they do not initiate the pathological process. These include: exposure to cold air, smoking, air pollution, air fresheners, perfumes, and dusty rooms. Avoiding these factors can help to control the disease better. Non-allergic asthma is usually triggered by some other factors, such as stress, anxiety cold and dry air, exercise, smoke, viruses, hyperventilation, and other irritants.

Symptoms Of Asthma

The symptoms of non-allergic and allergic asthma are very similar. The main pathological process encompasses narrowing of the airways (bronchoconstriction) and excess accumulation of mucus. These pathological processes manifest as episodic asthma attacks. Frequency of asthma attacks depends on the severity of the disease and compliance to proper treatment plan. Patients with asthma attacks usually call ambulance after failed attempts to manage the attack by using prescribed medications, such as inhalers.  

Asthma can usually be well controlled long term using corticosteroids, beta-adrenergic agonists, and parasympatholytics. It is characterized by reversibility of the symptoms. Namely, a person with asthma has normal lung volumes and capacities except during attack. Poorly controlled asthma can progress to emphysema (rupture of alveolar walls and creation of larger empty spaces in lung tissue) and chronic bronchitis which are joined in one term called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In COPD, the changes in lung function are irreversible, meaning that lowered values of lung volumes and capacities are present even outside of the attack.

Diagnosis Of Asthma

Diagnosis of bronchial asthma is made based on anamnesis from the patient, patient’s medical history, and functional tests of lung function and skin patch tests for common allergens. If all the tests are normal at first, provoked bronchoconstriction tests are performed. Based on results of these tests, your doctor will determine the nature and severity of your asthma and suggest the appropriate treatment.

Asthma Treatment Options

Corticosteroids have long-term anti-inflammatory effect and they can be used locally (inhalations) or systemically (oral tablets). Inhalations are preferred way in order to avoid complications of systemic use. Advanced measures used for acute asthma attacks include intravenous corticosteroid and aminophyllin injections. Corticosteroids block further inflammatory process and aminophyllin dilates the bronchi, thus improving the breathing.

Patients with asthma should stick to prescribed therapy to prevent long-term complications and progression of the disease. Avoiding allergens is also very important, as it lowers the frequency of asthma attacks. Nowadays, there are vaccines for different types of allergies which can significantly decrease or even eliminate the symptoms of allergy. Although allergic asthma is a self-sustaining disease once it is triggered, the symptoms and the progression of the disease can be significantly decreased by controlling the allergy.

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