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Asthma in adults: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About asthma in adults

Asthma is an obstructive lung disease characterised by recurrent episodes of cough and breathlessness. It generally results from the inflammation and swelling of oversensitive airways on exposure to allergens and irritants.

Asthma in adults related lung disease: Incidence, age and sex

Asthma is commonly seen worldwide. It seems to be more prevalent in women as compared with men.

Signs and symptoms of asthma in adults: Diagnosis

The clinical features of asthma may vary from mild to severe to acute exacerbations. It is a lifelong disease which is episodic in nature. It is allergic in nature and cannot be transmitted from person to person. Clinical features include recurring cough, shortness of breath and chest tightness. Some individuals may also have wheezing which is a whistle like sound produced on exhaling air. These symptoms may be more pronounced at night or in the early morning. Occasionally asthma control may deteriorate and result in acute attacks which may be triggered by allergens, irritants, emotional stress or respiratory infection.

Causes and prevention of asthma in adults

The chief factors contributing to asthma are increased sensitivity of the airways to certain triggering factors which causes increased mucus secretions and swelling of the airways, resulting in constricting them. Both environmental and genetic factors may play a role in causation. Individuals with a family history of asthma, allergic rhinitis or atopic dermatitis are more prone to developing asthma. Following are some triggering factors that may lead to asthma:

  • Allergens like mould, house dust, pollen, furry pets
  • Irritants like smoke, vehicular pollution, paints, perfume.
  • Emotional stress
  • Extremes of weather

Physical exercise or respiratory infections may also induce an asthmatic attack. Detailed history and physical examination are helpful in diagnosing the disease. The doctor may investigate using a peak flow meter or spirometry which will assess the lung capacity to throw out air.

Asthma in adults: Complications

Poor control of asthma may increase chances of acute exacerbations which may be potentially fatal. This may occur on exposure to triggering agent leading to immediate swelling of airways coupled with excessive mucus secretion which may clog the airways. The patient may experience severe breathlessness which may be life threatening.

Asthma in adults: Treatment

Asthma is a treatable disease but unfortunately it cannot be cured. Two kinds of medications are prescribed to the patient; one is the controller medication and other reliever medication. Controller medications are slow acting drugs which help in controlling asthma and thus preventing future attacks. Asthmatic patients are required to take controller medications regularly. Reliever medications are needed for immediate relief of asthmatic symptoms. They are short acting and their function is to dilate the constricted air passages. These asthmatic medications are given by inhaler devices called nebuliser or inhaler. In resistant cases, where asthma remains uncontrolled, oral steroids may be prescribed for better control. In an acute attack, take the reliever medication immediately and then wait for 10 minutes. If there is no relief, then inhale the reliever medication every 2 minutes for another 10 minutes. Contact the doctor at once if symptoms are not alleviated. It is advisable to quit smoking. Patient education plays an integral role in asthma management. Regular follow up is essential to monitor asthma control and modulate treatment accordingly.