Asthma, the disease that takes your breath away

An estimated 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma, a chronic inflammatory airway disease characterised by obstruction of the bronchial tubes

1. How can asthma be recognised?

While under normal conditions air enters the airways and arrives smoothly at the pulmonary alveoli and exits by the same route, in people with asthma this is not so smooth.

In asthmatics, the passage of air along the pathway (both outward and return) is obstructed by obstruction of the bronchi due to thickening of the bronchial walls caused by chronic inflammation over time.

2. Symptoms that signal the presence of asthma

What are the signs that asthma may be present? In general, it is easy to suspect the presence of asthma if you experience:

  • wheezing;
  • Dyspnoea;
  • chronic coughing;
  • chest constriction

These symptoms are clearly noticeable and can be aggravated by a number of variables: lying on your back at night, seasonal changes, intense exertion or strong emotions, viral or bacterial infections, smoke and allergens.

3. Definite diagnosis with spirometry

Spirometry is a simple, non-invasive test that is essential for measuring respiratory function and confirming the presence of bronchial obstruction.

It can be used to obtain various parameters and make a correct diagnosis.

Spirometry is performed in the following way: with the nose plugged, you first breathe into a mouthpiece naturally and then, following a deep inspiration, you proceed with a forced exhalation by blowing air into the mouthpiece with all possible force.

The examination provides valuable information on whether there is bronchial obstruction compatible with asthma or other conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Asthma-related disorders

Another aspect that should not be overlooked for a correct anamnesis is the identification of other disorders that may be at the root of asthma or that may influence its course and severity, such as, for example:

  • inflammation of the paranasal sinuses;
  • gastroesophageal reflux;
  • overweight;
  • obesity;
  • anxiety;
  • depression;
  • chronic heart failure;
  • obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome.

It is very important to bear in mind that failure to recognise and treat concomitant chronic diseases, especially in the elderly patient, will not allow adequate control of the asthmatic condition.

4. Asthma treatment

The treatment of asthma varies from person to person depending on the severity of the disease, and generally involves the administration of inhaled drugs (corticosteroids, bronchodilators and, where appropriate, selected anticholinergics) administered singly or in combination, as needed and for long periods of time.

An important recommendation to make to asthma patients is that, just as a diabetic monitors blood glucose and a hypertensive person monitors blood pressure, they should also always keep their spirometry parameters monitored.

All too often, when symptoms improve, treatment is interrupted, leading to dangerous relapses due to flare-ups of bronchial inflammation.

5. Asthma and COVID-19

Difficulty breathing, air hunger, coughing and tightness in the chest are the main symptoms that asthma and COVID-19 have in common.

It is not easy for sufferers to recognise the symptoms of either condition, but in most cases it is the presence of fever that makes the difference.

As asthma is an inflammatory disease of the airways and reduces the ability to breathe, it is advisable – as a precautionary measure – for sufferers to be particularly careful not to contract the new coronavirus, as the symptoms of the two diseases may be combined.

Read Also:

Arab Health 2020: Improving Healthcare Access To Reduce Asthma Outcome In The MENA Region

Global Strategy For Asthma Management And Prevention

Paediatrics: ‘Asthma May Have ‘Protective’ Action Against Covid’



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