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What is asthma?

Asthma is a disease caused by inflammation in the airways (bronchi). The inflammation eventually makes the airways swollen and very sensitive. As a result, the respiratory tract narrows so that the air that enters the lungs becomes limited.

Inflammation also makes cells in the respiratory tract make more mucus than usual. This mucus can further narrow the airways and make it difficult for you to breathe freely.

Depending on the trigger factor, asthma is usually divided into several types, namely:

1.    Sports asthma

2.    Nocturnal asthma (recurring only at night)

3.    Asthma due to certain jobs

4.    Cough asthma

5.    Allergic asthma

One of the myths about asthma that many people believe is that this disease can be cured. Unfortunately, this is not correct. Asthma cannot be completely cured. If you don't feel the symptoms as often as you used to, this indicates that you are able to control the disease that you have well.

How common is this condition?

According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO) , more than 339 million people in the world have this condition. Indonesia itself is ranked 20th as a country with the most deaths from asthma.

Diseases that affect breathing are more common in children. However, adults under the age of 40 can also experience it. Bronchial asthma is one of the most common non-communicable diseases worldwide, with a relatively low mortality rate.

However, most cases of death are found in low- and lower-middle-income countries, including Indonesia.

Asthma signs & symptoms

When someone has an asthma attack , the symptoms that arise are very diverse. Everyone may experience different symptoms, both in terms of severity, duration of attacks, and frequency.

You might "relapse" after a long period of time, then suddenly become "routine" having asthma attacks. Meanwhile, other people may experience symptoms every day, or only at night, or maybe only after activity.

Some of the characteristics and typical symptoms of asthma are:

1.    Cough

2.    Wheezing

3.    Chest tightness

4.    Hard to breathe

Apart from the four most common ones above, other symptoms that may arise due to this disease include:

·         Body limp, lethargic, and no energy

·         Nasal sound

·         Exhale continuously

·         Unusual feeling of restlessness

If you suspect one or several of the symptoms that have been mentioned, don't hesitate to see a doctor immediately.

Recognize the severity of asthma

Not only knowing the symptoms, it is also important to understand the severity of the bronchial asthma that you are suffering from. The reason is, the recurrence of this disease usually depends on how severe the condition you have.

The following are the severity levels of asthma:

·         Intermittent

·         Mild Persistent

·         Moderate Persistent

·         Heavy Persistence

Causes Of Asthma

Experts do not know exactly what causes asthma . However, attacks generally occur when a person is exposed to a trigger. Some things that might be the cause alias trigger asthma, among others:

1.    Active smokers and passive smokers.

2.    Upper respiratory tract infection (such as a cold, flu, or pneumonia).

3.    Allergies to food, pollen, mold, dust mites and pet dander.

4.    Exposure to substances in the air (such as air pollution, chemical fumes, or poisons).

5.    Weather factors (such as cold, windy and hot weather supported by poor air quality and drastic changes in temperature).

6.    Taking certain medications (such as aspirin, NSAIDs, and beta-blockers).

7.    Foods or drinks that contain preservatives (such as MSG).

8.    Experiencing severe stress and anxiety.

9.    Excessive singing, laughing, or crying.

10. Perfumes and fragrances.

11. Have a history of gastric acid reflux disease (GERD).

Asthma risk factors

This disease can affect anyone, even adults in their 30s or 40s. Indeed, most cases have been known since the patient was a baby or a child. However, approximately 25 percent of people with bronchial asthma have their first attack in adulthood.

According to WHO, this disease is the most common disease experienced by children because:

·         Parents have a history of this disease.

·         Have respiratory infections, such as pneumonia and bronchitis.

·         Have certain atopic allergies, such as food allergies or eczema.

·         Born with low weight.

·         Premature birth.

Asthma diagnosis

Asthma can only be diagnosed by a doctor . The doctor will ask about your medical history (including the type and frequency of symptoms), family medical history, and perform a physical exam and lung function tests.

Tell your doctor if your closest family, such as your parents, siblings, and grandparents have this condition. Also tell about the symptoms you feel, starting from when and how often you experience them.

During the physical exam, the doctor will listen to your breathing and look for signs of respiratory disease or allergies. The doctor will then use a spirometry test to check how your lungs are working. This test measures how fast and how much air you can inhale and exhale.

If needed, the doctor can also perform a number of other tests, such as:

1.    Allergy testing to find out which allergens affect you, if any.

2.    Bronchial test to measure the sensitivity of your airways.

3.    Tests to show if you have another condition with symptoms similar to asthma (eg, acid reflux, vocal cord disorders, or sleep apnea )

4.    Chest X-ray or EKG (electrocardiogram). These tests will help find out if a foreign body or other disease is causing your symptoms.

Asthma treatment

This disease is incurable. The treatment given is only aimed at reducing symptoms and preventing relapse. Asthma treatment should be discussed between you and your doctor. This is done in order to get the most effective and maximum treatment results.

The following are the treatment options given by the doctor.

1.    Long-term control drugs

If the condition you are experiencing is chronic or persistent, mild to severe, the treatment that is suitable for you is long-term therapy. Long-term treatment aims to control the severity of symptoms, and prevent them from recurring on an ongoing basis.

2.    Short-term control drugs

Short-term treatment is more aimed at relieving acute attacks as soon as they occur. The function of this drug is to help relieve symptoms that just appear and recur from time to time. However, this drug should not be taken for more than 2 weeks.

If you use these medicines for more than 2 weeks, consult a doctor immediately. Your doctor can make changes to your asthma action plan that are tailored to your condition.

Asthma complications

If not properly controlled, this disease can affect your overall health. In fact, this disease can have a direct impact on your bodily functions. Likewise if the treatment is not right.

Here are some complications of asthma that may occur:

1.    Pneumonia (lung infection)

2.    Partial or complete lung damage

3.    Respiratory failure, in which the level of oxygen in the blood becomes very low, or the level of carbon dioxide becomes very high

4.    Status asthmaticus (severe asthma attacks that do not respond to treatment)

These complications require emergency medical assistance because they can be fatal.

Asthma prevention

Although it cannot be cured, you can prevent this disease from recurring. Here are some things you can do to prevent asthma flare -ups .

1.    Create an asthma action plan

It is recommended that every patient with this condition determine a treatment plan with the doctor and other health teams. This is called an asthma action plan . The doctor will help determine the type of drug and treatment that suits your condition.

Make sure you follow the treatment plan to prevent recurrence of symptoms.

2.    Avoid trigger factors

A person will experience an attack of symptoms when exposed to the trigger. Therefore, identify what things can trigger a recurrence of your symptoms. Some of the most common trigger factors are exposure to irritants from cigarette smoke, air pollution, chemicals in household products to animal dander and pollen.

3.    Routinely check lung function

Routinely checking lung function with a peak flow meter can also be a way to prevent recurrence of attacks. The peak flow meter helps measure the amount of airflow in the patient's breath so that it will facilitate treatment before symptoms worsen. On the other hand, this tool can also help identify triggers so that sufferers can avoid them.

4.    Take medicine as recommended by the doctor

When the symptoms of this disease appear, immediately take the medicine recommended by the doctor and stop activities that trigger a recurrence of symptoms. If your symptoms don't improve, don't hesitate to see a doctor immediately. Do not stop medication without your doctor's knowledge, even if you feel better.

Make sure you also always carry asthma medicines wherever you go, and every time you will consult a doctor. This will make it easier for the doctor to see the effect of the treatment you are currently undergoing.

5.    Flu vaccine

Symptoms can recur, triggered by a prolonged cough due to the flu. So, it doesn't hurt to do the flu vaccine. But make sure you consult with your doctor first.

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