Asthma: Symptoms and Treatment Options

If bronchial asthma is left untreated, it can turn into a deadly condition that can have a serious impact on a person's life. Because of this, it is important to understand what causes the condition and some of the most common ways to treat it. This article will also discuss some of the symptoms of the disease, so a non-asthmatic person will be able to recognize them in order to possibly save the life of someone who has an asthma attack.

What is Asthma?

When a person is healthy, air can easily pass through the airways that stem from their lungs. The main two airways are called the “bronchus.” The bronchus are not directly side-by-side as one would think, since the lungs are in this position. The right bronchus is situated slightly higher than the left bronchus is. Both of the bronchus are connected to the trachea, but the right bronchus is smaller than the left one. And it is closer to the trachea. There are smaller airways that connect to them called ”bronchioles.” Once someone breathes in air, it passes from their nostrils or mouth down the trachea and into both of the bronchus. Then, it branches into the smaller bronchioles, which fill the lungs with air. But this changes when someone becomes asthmatic. The airways become inflamed. They swell and fill with mucus, so breathing becomes very difficult. All of the bronchus and bronchioles begin to spasm, so the airways are constricted too.

What Makes Asthma so Dangerous?

If the bronchi stay inflamed for too long, a person will have very little oxygen in their bloodstream. So not only will they struggle to breathe, but the brain and all of their vital organs will be starved of oxygen too. And this can cause death.

What are the Symptoms of Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic condition that usually begins in children. It can start later in a person's life though. Initially, there will be a persistent cough that doesn't seem to go away and weakness and lethargy during any form of laborious exercise. A whistling sound will come from the lungs as the person wheezes constantly. But the most dangerous symptom of asthma is repeat occurrences of asthma attacks. It is common for a person having an asthma attack to clutch their throat or fall to their knees as their airways constrict and fill with mucus. They will gasp for air and struggle to breathe. The lips will turn blue, and they will look very anxious.

What Triggers Asthma?

Asthma usually begins after a cold or virus that affects the lungs, but it can also be induced by environmental factors, such as being around cigarette smoke, black mold, or allergens. Some people develop the condition because of genetics too. And there have also been studies done that have shown that it is more common in children born to women who didn't get enough Vitamin D while they were pregnant. Sometimes, people with nervous disorders have asthma attacks when they are upset because their central nervous system constricts their blood vessels and makes them breathe faster, so they don't get enough oxygen.

Are Asthma Attacks Preventable?

Some measure can be taken to reduce the amount of asthma attacks that a person has, but the condition itself cannot be cured. A medical mask that fits tightly over the mouth and nose will lower the amount of allergens that reach the lungs, so this helps some. The home of an asthmatic person should have a heating and air conditioning system that has a HEPA filter to it, which will eliminate allergies from getting inside. And none of the people who live in the home should smoke cigarettes. That is because even if a person smokes outside of the home, they could still trigger an asthma attack in a person from the residue of the cigarettes that clings to their skin, hair, and clothing. All of the windows in the house should stay closed all the time, and the carpets and bedding should be frequently washed. Strong scents can trigger an attack, so perfumes or cleaning chemicals shouldn't be used around them either. And exercise should only be done to tolerance.

How is Asthma Diagnosed?

Most people who develop asthma later in life are able to fully describe their symptoms to a doctor to receive a diagnosis. But for young children who develop the condition, further testing has to be done. The doctor will do a chest x-ray to check for constricted bronchi and inflammation in the lungs. They will also have the child breathe into a tube that measures their oxygen input and output. And the doctor will ask the parents of the child questions regarding any family history of lung conditions that might run in the family.

What are the Treatment Options for Asthma?

Fortunately, there are several medications available that can be used to treat and reduce asthma attacks. When they are taken regularly, they can help to control the symptoms of this condition. However, this doesn't mean that an asthmatic person doesn't have to carry an inhaler with them. An inhaler is an emergency device, which sends a puff of medication deep into the lungs to dissipate the swelling and relax the airways. Inhalers usually contain Albuterol and steroids. Without them, someone could die from the starvation of oxygen. Some of the most common medications that are given besides inhalers are bronchodilators. A few of them include:

  • Dupixent (dupilumab) injection
    • Sanofi
    • 2018
  • Fasenra (benralizumab) injection
    • AstraZeneca
    • 2017
  • Nucala (mepolizumab) injection
    • Monoclonal Antibodies
    • GlaxoSmithKline
    • 2015
  • Xolair (omalizumab) injection
    • Genetech
    • 2003
  • Cinqair (reslizumab) injection
    • Monoclonal Antibodies
    • Teva
    • 2016
  • QVAR RediHaler (beclomethasone dipropionate HFA) inhaler
    • Teva
    • 2017
  • Spiriva Respimat (tiotropium bromide) inhaler
    • Boehringer Ingelheim
    • 2017

Most Popular Treatments

According to as of 3/12/19 the three most popular drugs used to treat asthma were:

  1. Singulair (montelukast)
  2. prednisone
  3. Dulera Inhaler (combination of formoterol & mometasone)

Emergency Treatment for an Asthma Attack

People who have asthma usually know what to do if their symptoms suddenly flare up. They will keep their inhaler close by in their pocket, backpack, or purse. Sometimes, asthmatics store several inhalers, so they are always handy. But they have to find an inhaler fast, or they could pass out from the lack of oxygen. They can't use their inhaler if they lose consciousness, so it is crucial that they get help finding it if they can't locate it on their own. They won't be able to talk if their airways are constricted though. So it is important that they have a labeled pouch on a pocket or pouch that is with them all the time, so others can help them find it. It is also important that asthmatics wear an emergency medical bracelet to alert others of their condition. An inhaler is usually enough to open up the airways, but if it doesn't work, it is crucial that an ambulance is called to get them to a hospital immediately. If a person loses consciousness from the lack of air, perform CPR until the ambulance arrives.