| Asthma is a respiratory disturbance of the bronchial tubes (airways) that cause swelling and narrowing (constriction) of the airways. The common symptoms of narrowing passages of the airways are wheezing, cough –chronic or recurring that is worse at night and early hours in the morning, pain or a tight feeling in the chest, shortness of breath, flaring of the nostrils when breathing in, interrupted talking, agitation and hyperinflation. |
To diagnose the asthma a detail physical examination and medical history of the patient are needed, such as chest x-rays, laboratory tests (blood and allergy tests) and repeated careful measurement of the exhalation using spirometers and peak flow meters will help in the diagnosis of asthma. First thing to do in asthma management is environmental control. By keeping the house clean, avoiding pets, washing the bedding weekly in hot water, using dust proof covers for mattress, pillows, replacing upholstered furniture with leather or vinyl, removing carpets and keeping the humidity low one can avoid or eliminate some of the common allergens like dust mites, molds, animal dander, pollen etc that trigger an asthmatic response.
Monitoring lung function with the help of the peak flow meter will be the second thing to do. A decreased lung function (down by 20pc or more) is an indicator of a forthcoming attack. And the third thing to do in managing asthma is the involvements of the use of medications.
There are two main groups of medications used in controlling asthma, anti-inflammatories and bronchodilators.
Anti-inflammatory drugs reduce the number of inflammatory cells in the airways and prevent blood vessels from leaking fluid into the airway tissues. By reducing inflammation, they reduce the spontaneous spasm of the airway muscle. Leukotriene inhibitors like Zafirlukast and zileuton are a class of anti-inflammatories that work by inhibiting leukotrienes (fatty acids that mediate inflammation) from binding to smooth muscle cells lining the airways. These drugs prevent rather than reduce symptoms and are intended for long-term use. Cromolyn sodium and nedrocromil are inhaled anti-inflammatories. Corticosteroids are also used to treat inflammation and are given as inhalers or oral tablets.
Bronchodilators work by increasing the diameter of the air passages and easing the flow of gases to and from the lungs. The short-acting bronchodilators such as metaproterenol, ephedrine, terbutaline and albuterol are inhaled to relieve symptoms during acute asthma attacks. The long-acting bronchodilators like salmeterol, metaproterenol and theophylline control symptoms in special circumstances, such as during sleep or when intensive exposure to a particular irritant can be predicted.
It is better to know the early signs and symptoms and diagnose it as the early treatment is most effective for medication