Doctor Reza - The Specialist in Treatment of Asthma

What Is Asthma?

Asthma is a condition that affects the airways (bronchi) of the lungs. The airways become narrower than normal. This causes the typical symptoms.

Asthma can start at any age, but it most commonly starts in childhood. At least 1 in 10 children and 1 in 20 adults have asthma. Asthma runs in some families, but many people with asthma have no other family members affected.

Symptoms Of Asthma
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Breathlessness
  • Chronic dry cough
  • Waking up at night because of the above
  • Breathlessness on exercise or on playing games.
Causes Of Asthma

Asthma is caused by inflammation (swelling) in the airways. The inflammation irritates the muscles around the airways and causes them to squeeze (constrict). This causes narrowing of the airways. It is then more difficult for air to get in and out of the lungs. This leads to wheezing and breathlessness. The inflammation also causes extra mucus to be produced which causes cough and further obstruction to airflow. It is not known why the inflammation occurs.

What Makes Asthma Symptoms Worse
  • Airborne allergens, such as pollen, animal dander, mold, cockroaches and dust mites
  • Respiratory infections, such as the common cold, coughs and chest infections
  • Physical activity (exercise-induced asthma)
  • Cold air
  • Air pollutants and irritants, such as smoke, cigarette smoke and pollution. You have to be extra careful if you are living in polluted cities like Kolkata, New Delhi, Manila, Jakarta, etc.
  • Certain medications, including beta blockers, aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. About 1 in 50 people with asthma are allergic to aspirin which can trigger symptoms
  • Strong emotions and stress even laughing may trigger symptoms
  • Sulfites and preservatives added to some types of foods and beverages, including shrimp, dried fruit, processed potatoes, beer and wine
  • Gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition in which stomach acids back up into your throat
  • Menstrual cycle in some women
  • House dust mite – This is a tiny creature that lives in mattresses and other fabrics around the home
  • Certain food – this is uncommon and not thought to be a trigger in most cases.
Diagnosis

Sometimes symptoms are typical and a doctor, specializing in chest diseases like asthma, easily makes the diagnosis. A Peak Flow Meter may be advised to help confirm that symptoms are due to asthma. Lung Function Test with reversibility will be done to confirm the diagnosis. This involves breathing into a machine that measures the rate and volume of airflow in and out of your lungs.

What is a Peak Flow Meter? The peak flow meter is a small device that you blow into. It measures the speed of air that you can blow our of your lungs. If you have untreated asthma than typically you will have low and variable peak flow readings. Regular peak flow readings can be used to help assess how well treatment is working and is exactly like measuring blood pressure in hypertension and blood sugar in diabetes.

Treatment
  • Inhalers (Very safe, Very effective) - Inhalers deliver a small dose of medicine directly to the airways. They are of two types:
    1. Reliever inhalers (Salbutamol) – take as and when required. The medicine in reliever inhalers relaxes the muscle in the airways. This makes the airways open wider and symptoms quickly ease. If you often need a reliever inhaler (once a day or more), then you should take a ‘preventer inhaler’. THEY DO NOT TREAT ASTHMA.
    2. Preventer inhalers (steroids) - take daily The medicine in preventer inhalers is usually a steroid. Steroids work by reducing the inflammation in the airways. It takes 7-14 days to build up its effect. So it will not give any immediate relief of symptoms. You should keep taking a preventer inhaler every day to keep symptoms away, even when you are well.
  • Tablets or liquid medicines to open up the airways (used infrequently) - Tablets or liquids are sometimes prescribed which contain similar medicines to those in the reliever inhalers. Most people do not need these, as inhalers usually work well and cause less side effects. In a small number of cases they are prescribed in addition to inhalers if symptoms are not fully eased
  • Steroid tablets - A short course of steroid tablets is sometimes needed to control bad attacks of asthma. Steroid tablets are good at reducing the inflammation in the airways. Some people worry about taking steroid tablets. However, a short course of steroid tablets (a week) usually works very well and has few side effects.
Remember
  • The dose of the preventer inhaler may need to be increased if you have a cough or cold
  • If exercise of sport causes symptoms, then a dose of reliever inhaler just before the exercise usually prevents symptoms
  • For many adults, Asthma is variable with some good and some bad spells. Some people are worse in winter months, others in summer
  • There is no cure for Asthma but I, your pulmonologist, can keep you well
  • Smoking makes your Asthma worse. So if you have Asthma, STOP SMOKING!
  • Children with Asthma will benefit from a smoke-free home - stop smoking if your children have Asthma.
** This site is for patient information only **