What is asthma?
Asthma is a long-term lung condition that affects the airways - the breathing tubes that carry air into your lungs.
People with asthma tend to have sensitive airways, which when triggered by things like smoke and cold weather, can 'flare-up'. This makes it difficult to breath in and out due to constricted muscles, swollen airways, and an increase in mucus.
Despite the fact there is no 'cure' for asthma, the right knowledge and management of the condition can ensure suffers lead full and active lives.
With this in mind, here's a closer look at who gets asthma, how it can affect the airways, and what sufferers can do to live with the condition.
Who does asthma affect?
In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that around 5.4 million people currently receive treatment for asthma. This equates to one in every 12 adults and one in every 11 children.
Even though asthma affects more boys than girls, it is more common in adult women than men. Approximately five per cent of sufferers are said to have severe asthma.
Types of asthma
· Occupational asthma - Caused by substances breathed in at work, such as dust, chemicals, fumes and animal fur.
· Severe asthma - Symptoms do not get better even when the individual takes the usual medicines regularly and correctly, and where other causes and triggers for the symptoms have been ruled out as much as possible.
· Adult onset asthma - Symptoms are less likely to be triggered by allergies and more likely to be triggered by ill health, exercise, hormonal changes, and irritants.
· Childhood asthma - Sufferers find that the condition improves or disappears completely as they get older.
· Seasonal asthma - People who only experience symptoms at certain times of the year, typically triggered by pollen and cold weather.
How does asthma affect your airways?
Asthma causes three main changes to the airways inside the lungs, all of which can happen together:
· The thin layer of muscle within the wall of an airway can contract, making it tighter and narrower. Medicine works to relax these muscles.
· The inside walls of the airways can become swollen, resulting in less space inside. Medicine works to reduce the inflammation that causes swelling.
· Mucus can block the inside of the airways. Medicine works to reduce the amount of mucus.
What are the symptoms of asthma?
Symptoms often vary over time and from person to person, but they typically include:
· Tight feeling in the chest
· Continuing cough
Symptoms aren't always obvious, especially when asthma is well-controlled. However, they often occur at night, early in the morning, as well as during or after physical activity, as this is when the airways will narrow.
A lot of the time, people think they have asthma when they are simply exhibiting common symptoms. This is because the airways are sensitive all the time, its just people with asthma have permanently irritated (inflamed) airways when not taking regular preventative treatment.
What are the causes of asthma?
More often than not, sufferers have a family history of asthma, eczema and hayfever. Even so, the causes of asthma are still not yet fully understood.
Research has indicated that exposure to tobacco smoke (especially as a child), obesity, and some workplace chemicals can increase the risk of developing asthma.
What treatments are available to those with asthma?
Despite the fact there is no cure for asthma, a number of effective medicines can help to relieve the symptoms and reduce the risk of attacks. The two main types of asthma medicines are relievers and preventers, which usually take the form of inhalers and puffers.
A healthy lifestyle can also help people with asthma stay on top of their symptoms, prevent flare-ups or attacks, and keep their lungs as healthy as possible.
It is imperative that sufferers work alongside their GP or a medical professional to keep on top of asthma treatment.
Living with asthma
Most people with asthma get the right treatment and manage their condition correctly, meaning they can lead happy and healthy lives.
But, tragically, three people die every day because of asthma attacks, with research showing that two thirds of fatalities are preventable.
If you think you might have asthma or are worried that a loved one is exhibiting symptoms, take a proactive approach and consult with a medical professional.
If you receive a prescription for asthma medication, why not get it delivered to your door with our hassle-free service?