Bronchial asthma, symptoms and treatment

Written by: Dr. Luis Miguel Domínguez Juncal
Published: | Updated: 11/11/2018
Edited by: Top Doctors®

What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic lung disease in which the mucosa lining the bronchial tree becomes inflamed and thickens by decreasing the caliber of the airway and hampering the passage of air into the lungs. It is a very frequent disease. In Spain, it affects 3-4% of the adult population and 8% of children. For reasons not yet well known, their frequency has increased in the last 20-30 years. It is possible that genetic and environmental factors, mainly allergy, pollution, smoking, obesity and the type of diet may influence.


What are the symptoms of asthma?

The main symptoms of asthma are:

  • Cough, which gets worse with effort or at night. 
  • Wheezing (whistling or wheezing). 
  • Difficulty breathing. 
  • Chest tightness.


How is asthma diagnosed?

In addition to the symptoms that suggest the presence of the disease, it is necessary to demonstrate the alteration of the pulmonary function, with the performance of a spirometry with bronchodilator test or the examination of the variability of the maximum expiratory flow. In case of suspicion, it is advisable to study the possibility of allergic sensitization, through skin tests or blood analysis.


What are the triggers of asthma?

The possible triggers are multiple and diverse:

  • Respiratory infections : Mainly those caused by viruses. Asthmatics should avoid those conditions that can lead to colds, not exposing themselves to sudden temperature changes or staying close to people with catarrhal symptoms. 
  • Allergens: dust mites, pollens, dandruff or animal hair, fur or feathers
  • Physical exercise: Especially sports that take place in very cold and dry environments or that require a very high intensity of effort. In general, it should not be prohibited to practice any physical exercise, but should advise measures and appropriate preventive treatment, where necessary. 
  • Smoking: Avoid not only that the patient smokes, but also stay in an environment contaminated by other smokers' tobacco smoke. Prenatal or early exposure to tobacco smoke is a risk factor for asthma development
  • Medications: Beta blockers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. 
  • Atmospheric pollutants. 
  • Psychological factors: Asthma is not a psychological illness, but anxiety or depression can determine a greater presence of symptoms and a worse evolution of the disease.


What is the treatment of asthma?

The goal of asthma treatment is to achieve control of the disease by avoiding symptoms and crises in the shortest time possible, with the least side effects and the lowest dose of medication. Not all patients need the same medications. The treatment of each patient is individualized depending on the characteristics and severity of asthma. There are two major groups of asthma medications:

  • Anti-inflammatory : are the most important. Its function is to eliminate or reduce inflammation of the bronchi. The most important are corticoids, mainly through inhalation. Other drugs are antileukotrienes (montelukast) and chromones. 
  • Bronchodilators : act by dilating and opening the bronchi. Short-acting drugs (salbutamol, terbutaline) are used as relief medication and long-acting drugs (formoterol, salmeterol, indacaterol) are used in a prescribed manner and always associated with inhaled corticosteroids.


What care should the patient follow in his daily life?

  • Do not smoke and do not allow them to smoke in your presence. Avoid contaminated environments. 
  • Know the allergens and irritants that can trigger your symptoms and learn to avoid them. 
  • Learn to identify the alarm signs of an asthmatic attack. 
  • Learn what medicines to take, how and when to take them. 
  • Be consistent and maintain the treatment, strictly following the recommendations of your doctor. 
  • Go to regular check-ups with your doctor to monitor the condition and maintain or adjust treatment.


Does asthma heal?

Asthma is a chronic disease that has no cure, but treatments that allow patients to regain their quality of life without symptoms and be controlled. That is the goal and we call it having controlled asthma. One of the secrets of asthma treatment lies in the patient's perseverance in properly following the prescribed treatment.


Allergy and asthma, are they the same?

Probably allergy is the most risk factor for triggering asthma. However, allergy should not be confused with asthma , because although they may be closely related, they are not exactly the same. Of every two people with asthma, only one is also allergic.

*Translated with Google translator. We apologize for any imperfection

By Dr. Luis Miguel Domínguez Juncal
Pulmonary Disease

Pulmonary specialist with over twenty years of experience. Doctor Dominguez develops its healthcare activities in the Chiron Hospital A Coruña, is an expert on asthma, COPD, smoking, OSA and lung cancer. He has published over 30 articles in specialized journals and several books, including "Smoking: Epidemic do Seculo XX." or "Emergency Manual in Pneumology" belongs to several medical society included the European Respiratory Society (ERS)

*Translated with Google translator. We apologize for any imperfection

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