Asthma: Symptoms, Prevention, Causes, Diagnosis & Risk Factors
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Asthma: Symptoms, Prevention, Causes & Diagnosis


Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition in which the airways narrow, swells and produce extra mucus. This can lead to difficulty in breathing and trigger symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing. For some people, asthma is a minor inconvenience, while for others, it can be a significant problem that obstructs with daily activities and may lead to a life-threatening asthma attack.

The symptoms can be controlled to an extent. Because asthma often changes over time, patients must work with their doctor to track the signs and symptoms and adjust treatment according to it.

To understand what asthma is, one must understand the normal breathing phenomenon. Normally, with every breath an individual takes, air goes through the nose and down into the throat, into the airways, finally making it to lungs. There are many small air passages present in the lungs that help deliver oxygen from the air into the bloodstream.

Asthma symptoms occur when the lining of the airways swell and the muscles surrounding them tighten. The mucus then fills the airways, further reducing the amount of air that can pass through.

These conditions then bring on asthma “attack.”

Asthma Sign and Symptoms

Asthma signs & symptoms of asthma vary from person to person. Individuals may have infrequent asthma attacks, have symptoms only at certain times, such as when exercising or have symptoms all the time.

Asthma signs and symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath
  • A wheezing sound when exhaling
  • Coughing or wheezing attacks that get worsened by cold or the flu

Signs that asthma is probably worsening include:

  • More frequent and bothersome signs and symptoms of asthma
  • More difficulty in breathing
  • The usual need to use a quick-relief inhaler more often

For some asthma patients, signs and symptoms flare up in certain situations:

  • Exercise-Induced Asthma – Triggered when the air is cold and dry

  • Occupational Asthma – Triggered by irritants found in various workplaces such as chemical fumes, gases, or dust.
  • Allergy-Induced Asthma – Triggered by airborne particles, such as pollen, mold spores & pet dander.

Cause of Asthma

According to studies, there is no singular cause that has been identified for asthma. Instead, researchers believe that a variety of factors causes breathing conditions. Genetic or environmental factors may play a key role in causing asthma.

Asthma Triggers

Certain conditions and environmental factors may also activate symptoms of asthma. These activators include:

  • Illness – Flu and pneumonia are the respiratory illnesses that can trigger asthma attacks in the patients.

  • Exercise – Increased movement may lead to making breathing more difficult.

  • Irritants in the Air – People with asthma may be sensitive towards certain irritants such as chemical fumes, strong odors, and smoke.

  • Allergens – Animal dander, dust mites, and pollens are a few examples of allergens that can trigger these symptoms.

  • Extreme Weather Conditions – Conditions such as high humidity and low temperatures may also trigger asthma.

  • Emotions – Laughing, shouting, and crying may trigger an attack.

Risk Factors of Asthma

There are several factors thought to increase the chances of developing asthma. These include:

  • Having a family history (such as a parent or sibling) with asthma
  • Having another allergic illness, such as allergic rhinitis (hay fever)
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Exposure to second-hand smoke
  • Exposure to chemical fumes or other types of pollution

Asthma Complications

Asthma complications include:

  • Signs and symptoms that interfere with sleep and disturbs sleep patterns

  • Permanent narrowing of the bronchial tubes that affects how well an individual can breathe

  • Emergency room visits and hospitalizations especially for severe asthma attacks

  • Side effects from long-term medications used to stabilize severe asthma

Proper treatment and care make a big difference in preventing both short-term and long-term complications caused by asthma.

Asthma Prevention

While there is no cure to prevent asthma, by working together, the patients and their doctor can design a step-by-step plan for living with the condition and preventing asthma attacks.

  • Follow the Asthma Action Plan – Asthma is an ongoing medical condition that needs regular monitoring and treatment. Monitoring and controlling treatment can make people feel more in control of their daily routine.

  • Get Vaccinated for Influenza and Pneumonia – Staying updated with vaccinations can prevent flu and pneumonia from triggering asthma.

  • Identify and Avoid Asthma Triggers – Numerous outdoor allergens and irritants, ranging from pollen to mold to cold air and air pollution can trigger asthma attacks. If they trigger asthma attacks, they should be avoided by the patients.

  • Monitor Breathing – Patients should learn to recognize warning signs of an impending attack, such as slight coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath. It is preferable to regularly measure and record peak airflow with the help of a home peak flow meter.

  • Identify and Treat Attacks Early – Quicker the act, lesser the severity of an attack. When the readings of peak flow meter decrease and alert an oncoming asthma attack, one must take medication as prescribed by their doctor and immediately stop any activity that may have triggered the attack.

  • Take Medicines as Prescribed

  • Pay Attention to Increasing Quick-Relief Inhaler Use –If an individual finds himself relying on the quick-relief inhaler, this may imply that asthma is not under control. Visit the doctor about adjusting treatment.

Asthma Diagnosis

Physical Exam – To figure out other possible conditions, such as a respiratory infection or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the doctor will do a physical exam and may ask some questions about signs and symptoms and any other health-related query.

Screening tests to measure lung function

  • Spirometry – The spirometry test estimates the narrowing of bronchial tubes by calculating how much air a person can exhale after a deep breath.

  • Peak Flow – A peak flow meter is a simple device that evaluates how hard one can breathe out. Lower than usual, peak flow readings are an indication that lungs may not be working as well and that asthma may be getting worse.

Additional Tests

Other tests to diagnose asthma include:

  • Methacholine Challenge – Methacholine is a known asthma trigger that, when inhaled, it will cause mild constriction of the airways. If a person reacts to the methacholine, there is a chance of having asthma.

  • Nitric Oxide Test – This test, though not widely available, measures the amount of the nitric oxide that a person has in his/her breath. When the airways are inflamed a person may have higher than normal nitric oxide levels. Inflamed airways are a sign of asthma.

  • Imaging Tests – A chest X-ray and high-resolution computerized tomography (CT) scan of the lungs and nose cavities can identify any structural abnormalities or an infection that can cause or irritate breathing problems.

  • Allergy Testing – Allergy tests can determine if an individual is allergic to pets, dust, mold, and pollen.

  • Sputum Eosinophils –This test looks for eosinophils (white blood cells) in the mixture of saliva and mucus discharge during coughing.

  • Provocative Testing For Exercise and Cold-Induced Asthma –In these tests, the doctor measures an individual’s airway obstruction before and after performing vigorous physical activity.


Medical Tests and Health Checkups Available At House of Diagnostics (HOD).


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Asthma: Symptoms, Prevention, Causes, Diagnosis & Risk Factors
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Asthma: Symptoms, Prevention, Causes, Diagnosis & Risk Factors
Read about asthma symptoms, prevention,causes & diagnosis. Asthma is an inflammatory disease of the airways to the lungs. It makes breathing difficult and can make some physical activities difficult or even impossible.
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