Asthma

Asthma is a long-term condition affecting your airways. It is a common condition, with no cure that affects approximately 5 million people of all ages in the UK, at present. Sometimes asthma disappears with age, but for many it is a life-long condition.

Facts about Asthma:

  • Approximately 5.4 million people are currently receiving treatment for asthma
  • Boys are more prone to asthma than girls
  • Yet, in adults asthma is more common in women than men
  • Asthma is considered “severe” in approximately 5% of sufferers
  • There is no cure for asthma, only safe and effective treatments to manage symptoms
  • Asthma attacks cause on average three deaths per day
  • However, two in three deaths are preventable

Symptoms of Asthma

Asthma sufferers have sensitive airways, the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. This causes irritation and inflammation when coming into contact with any trigger substances, which can cause the airways to narrow and produce a sticky mucus, or sputum.

Narrowed airways can cause tightness in the chest and difficulty in breathing normally.

Symptoms of asthma include:

  • Breathlessness
  • Tightness in chest
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing

Symptoms also:

  • Often come and go over time
  • May be worse at night, or in the morning
  • Are likely to worsen when in contact with something that triggers your symptoms

Symptoms are often mild, caused by the airways restricting just a little. However, on occasions the symptoms are severe and the airways close so much that air is unable to pass into the lungs, causing a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream. Severe asthma symptoms require urgent medical attention.

If suffering from an asthma attack you could experience an increased heartbeat, with faster breathing, confusion and drowsiness as well as dizziness or fainting.

What causes asthma?

There is not enough evidence to fully understand the causes of asthma. However, this condition tends to run in families and exposure to certain substances as a child could be related.

Possible causes of asthma:

  • Family history of atopic conditions – these include asthma, eczema, food allergies and hay fever
  • Suffering with another atopic condition yourself
  • Contracting bronchiolitis as a child – this is a common lug infection
  • Exposure to tobacco smoke as a child
  • Mother smoking during pregnancy
  • Premature birth
  • Underweight at birth
  • Chlorine in swimming pools is also suspected to have a possible cause

What triggers asthma symptoms?

An asthma trigger is anything that prompts symptoms of asthma. There are many and triggers vary person to person. Asthma linked to allergies often occurs first in children compared to when adults develop asthma it is usually linked to other triggers.

Common substances that trigger asthma include:

  • Cigarette smoke
  • Pollution and heavy fumes
  • Allergens – such as pollen, animal fur, feathers and dust mites
  • Infections that affect the airways, such as colds and flu
  • Food additives
  • Food allergies
  • Weather conditions – such as sudden changes in temperature, exposure to cold air or high winds
  • Chemical exposure in the home – such as cleaning products, decorating products
  • Chemical exposure in the workplace – this could include paint, latex or colophony
  • Central heating or open fires
  • Repeated exposure to mould or damp in the home
  • Certain medicines – particularly NSAIDs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen and beta-blockers
  • Stress factors
  • Heightened emotions, such as laughing
  • Exercise, particularly intense
A specialist consultation gives your health the attention it deserves.

Diagnosing and treating asthma

Diagnosing your asthma is the first step to managing your symptoms with effective treatment.

A consultation with a specialist respiratory physician will:

  • Discuss your family medical history
  • Carry out breathing tests to help confirm diagnosis

A Peak Flow Meter or a Spirometry can measure the amount of air you breathe out, which assesses your asthma. This can be used at home ongoing following diagnosis and consultation with a doctor.

Following diagnosis, the usual form of treatment for asthma sufferers is an inhaler.

  • Preventer inhalers – these try to prevent symptoms occurring
  • Reliever inhalers – can relieve symptoms if they do occur

Other treatments to help manage symptoms include:

  • Medication such as montelukast, which may be a tablet or injection
  • Referral to an immunologist to test and assess allergies
  • Referral to a physiotherapist, to help with breathing exercises
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Take the flu jab, annually, for added protection
  • Give up smoking

Seek the right help to feel your best

To feel our best is ultimately everyone’s goal in life.

Often it is only when a condition arises, leaving us feeling unwell, that it becomes clear as to the value of our health.

Expert help is available to help you to better understand, manage and improve symptoms related to your respiratory health.

A specialist consultation gives your health the attention it deserves.