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World Asthma Day: What Is Asthma?

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Around 5.4 million people in the UK are currently being treated for asthma. It is a condition which doesn’t discriminate, affecting people of all ages.

In light of - what would have been - World Asthma Day, we have put together this helpful guide to uncover the basics about asthma.

What Is Asthma?

Asthma is a lung condition that affects your airways. It is typically known for causing occasional breathing difficulties.

As mentioned earlier, asthma affects people of all ages. Most sufferers develop the condition during childhood, but there have also been many asthma cases that haven’t developed until adulthood.

What Are The Symptoms of Asthma - How Does It Feel?

There are four main symptoms of asthma:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Breathlessness
  • Having a tight chest

These symptoms tend to get worse - and can even cause an asthma attack - when the sufferer is exposed to certain triggers. These triggers usually depend on the type of asthma someone has.

What Types of Asthma Are There?

Luckily, all types of asthma are usually treated the same, meaning you don’t need to categorise yourself if you’re unsure. These types, however, may help you to know what type of triggers to stay away from.

Allergic/Atopic Asthma: Allergic asthma can be triggered by a whole range of allergens including dust, pollen and pets. It is extremely common for those with allergic asthma to also have other ‘allergies’ such as hay fever and eczema. There are also high chances of an allergic asthma sufferer having some sort of food allergy, too.

Those with allergic asthma have to be very careful around - or avoid - the allergens which trigger them.

Seasonal Asthma: Seasonal asthma is the one type of asthma which allows sufferers to go symptom-free for a good chunk of the year. As the name suggests, those with seasonal asthma tend to only suffer during a certain season. Most commonly, this is during hay fever season.

Exercise-Induced Asthma: Many people with asthma soon discover that exercise makes their symptoms worse. While most people who exercise will get out of breath and recover quickly, those with exercise-induced asthma will be putting themselves in danger if they were to carry on as normal.

Severe Asthma: Severe asthma affects 4% of people with asthma. It is diagnosed by the onset of severe symptoms such as frequent asthma attacks, but it can also be diagnosed when current treatment is proving to be ineffective.

Those with severe asthma require specialist treatment, usually from the help of an asthma clinic.

Late-Onset Asthma: Late-onset asthma - also known as adult-onset asthma - is the type of asthma which doesn’t develop until adulthood. This is usually triggered by smoking, obesity, female hormones, or even your job.

For more information regarding the different types of Asthma, check out this guide from Asthma UK.

How Long Does Asthma Last?

Unfortunately, asthma is a long-term condition for most people. There is, however, a chance that you can grow out of it if diagnosed as a child. Everyone is different.

How Do Doctors Test For Asthma?

When you go to your GP, they will ask basic questions about your symptoms and any known allergies. From here, they may wish to take further tests. These tests aren’t usually carried out on young children - instead, young children will receive an inhaler until they’re at a suitable age for testing.

In the UK, the three main tests for asthma are:

FeNO Test: All that you need to do is breathe into a machine which can measure the level of nitric oxide in your breath. Traces of nitric oxide tend to suggest that your lungs are inflamed.

Peak Flow Test: A peak flow test involves blowing into a device which will measure how fast you can breath out. This can be repeated as much as need be to look for any patterns.

Spirometry Test: Similarly to the peak flow test, a spirometry test involves blowing into a machine which measures how fast you can breath out. In addition to this, a spirometry test will also measure how much air your lungs can hold.

Treatments For Asthma

Sadly, there is currently no cure for asthma, but there are plenty of effective treatments which help to relieve symptoms:

Inhalers: Inhalers are the most common form of treatment amongst asthma sufferers. They contain a special medicine (which you inhale).

Reliever inhalers - blue inhalers - are the most common type. Reliever inhalers are used to treat symptoms as and when they occur. If you find that you’re relying on your reliever inhaler more than three times a week, then you may have to move on to a preventer inhaler.

Preventer inhalers are used every day to prevent any asthma-related symptoms. They contain a special steroid medicine which helps to reduce the inflammation of your lungs/airways.

If the above two types of inhalers are not effective, then you might receive a combination inhaler which combines the medicines from both.

Tablets: Tablets can also be taken if an inhaler isn’t effective enough. The most common forms are LTRAs, Theophylline and steroid tablets. Your GP will help to decide which tablet is most suited for your symptoms.

Injections: Injections are a more modern form of treatment for those with severe asthma. They are given every few weeks to control severe symptoms.

Get More Information

If you wish to know more about asthma and the effects it has, then check out these incredible resources: