Severity of symptoms range from very mild to severe form that affects daily activities. Inflammation of the airways increases the sensitivity of the region and makes it more prone to allergic reaction.
Asthma is diagnosed based on lung function tests, medical history, and physical examination. During an asthma attack, the symptoms becomes worse. Severe attacks of asthma require medical attention.
Short-term relief medications and long-term medications to control symptoms are used in the treatment.
Making a diagnosis of asthma is done by several tests.
Physical examination helps to differentiate other respiratory conditions that result in similar symptoms. Review of signs and symptoms, and medical history of the person also provide important clues in the diagnosis of asthma.
Lung function test or pulmonary function test is used to measure the amount of air in transaction during inhalation and exhalation. Spirometry measures the amount of air exhaled after a deep breath. This indicates the narrowing of airways.
Peak flow meter is a lung function test that evaluates how hard one can exhale. Low peak flow readings indicate abnormality in the function of lungs. Lung function test is usually taken by dilating the airways using a bronchodilator.
Other tests include:
Methacholine challenge – a test in which methacholine, a trigger of asthma, is used in the challenge. The test gives the reaction of the person to methacholine, which indicates asthma.
Nitric oxide test – this test measures the amount of nitric oxide in breath. Higher levels of nitric oxide is a sign of asthma.
Imaging tests – imaging tests like X-ray, and CT scan is helpful in identifying the structural abnormalities or infection that result in asthma.
Allergy testing – allergy testing, done with skin test or blood tests, identifies allergies to common triggers like pets, pollen, or mold.
Sputum eosinophils – presence of eosinophils in saliva and sputum is another indicator of asthma.
Airway obstruction before and after a vigorous physical activity also may be an indicator of this condition.
Corticosteroids – inhalation corticosteroids have anti-inflammatory properties with low side effects. Fluticasone, flunisolide, beclomethasone, and budesonide are commonly used inhalation corticosteroids.
Leukotriene modifiers – these oral medications open up the airways. Montelukast and zafirlukast are leukotrient modifiers that help to alleviate the symptoms.
Long-acting beta agonists – salmeterol and formoterol are long-acting beta agonists that help to open up the passage.
Combination inhalers – it is usually a combination of long-acting beta agonist and corticosteroid.
Theophylline – is a bronchodilator that relaxes the muscles of the airways.
Some medications are used for quick relief from symptoms during an asthma attack. Short-acting beta agonists, ipratropium, and corticosteroids are prescribed for quick relief. Albuterol and levalbuterol are short-acting beta agonists used as hand-held inhaler or nebulizer.
Ipratropium quickly relaxes the airways and aids in improving breathing. It is commonly prescribed for emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Corticosteroids are also used for severe form of airway inflammation.
Immunotherapy or allergy shots are suggested for controlling asthma caused by allergy. Shots are given once a week for few months.
The dose is reduced to once a month for few years. Omalizumab is a shot given for severe asthma attacks caused by allergies.
Blatta orientalis, Lobelia inflate, Antimonium tartaricum, Sambucus nigra, Natrum sulphuricum, Medorrhinum, and Tuberculinum are homeopathy remedies for controlling asthma symptoms.
Anti-inflammatory diet is also recommended to prevent narrowing of airways. Herbs like ginger and turmeric have anti-inflammatory properties and including them in the diet is effective in controlling symptoms.
There are several risks and complications associated with Asthma.
Asthma attacks and chronic asthma symptoms may affect day to day activities, work life, and sleep. Flare ups may result in emergency room visits. Long-term use of preventive medications may have side-effects.
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