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Asthma A Killer Disease


Responsible for death of approximately 250,000 deaths worldwide per year, it has 300 million affected as of 2009. Asthma is an inflammatory disease of the airways with symptoms like coughing, Wheezing and shortness of breath.

Asthma is an inflammatory disease of the airways with symptoms like coughing, Wheezing and shortness of breath. During asthma the airways tighten and oxygen flow is drastically decreased to the lungs which can lead to suffocation if the onset is severe. Though asthma can be controlled with the help of inhalers, it’s still considered as a fatal disease if not given proper medical attention when an attack occurs.


Asthma can be diagnosed by two methods Forced Expiratory Volume in 1 second and Peak Expiratory Flow Rate. The Forced Expiatory Volume in 1 Second (FEV1) is done clinically on a device called the Spirometry. This device is used by Pulmonologists to determine the amount and speed of air that can be inhaled and exhaled by the lungs of the patient. But this test has its own limitations as it requires a patient to co-operate with the doctor so that a proper reading can be obtained. In case where a patient is not co-operative like minors below the age of 5 or patient that is unconscious or those patients who cannot follow proper instructions for various reasons, then other tests like the nitrogen wash. Apart from this another method is called the Peak Expiratory Flow Rate (PEFR).

In this method a small handheld device is used to measure the expiration of airflow. In this method the patient need not go to a doctor to check his/her breath, but can do it themselves by using this device. The handheld device is divided into three zones which can let a patient know his/her condition. These zones are the Green Zone, Yellow Zone and the Red Zone. If the marker is in the Green Zone then the air flow is normal and requires no medical attention. If the marker is in the Yellow Zone then this indicates caution and that means that the airways may be narrowing or are under strain, but if the marker is in the Red Zone then this indicates danger and immediate medical attention.


Medical experts classify asthma on the bases of severity and on the bases of the environment. In case of severity the above mentioned test are used to determine the severity. In case of environment based asthma, the doctors have to determine if the attack is due to allergies (atopic) or non-allergic (non-atopic). If an asthma attack is due to an allergy then the doctors can prescribe medicines which can help suppress the allergy triggers.

Types of Asthma:

There are different types of asthma and they vary from person to person and environment.

Asthma Attack:

The signs and symptoms of asthma are shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing and if severe the air flow gets very thin and victim has extremely hard time breathing or catching breath. During the attack the skins and nails change color to blue due to lack of oxygen. An immediate help would be an inhaler which helps in opening the airways so that oxygen can pass through.

Exercise Induced Asthma:

Mostly found in athletes those participate in sports like biking, long distance running and mountain biking. The symptoms would be coughing, short breath and loud wheezing. This occurs during intense workout, when the breathing through the nose is not sufficient and the mouth has to be used to intake the oxygen. When this is done it leads to over flow of blood to the lining of the bronchial tree and asthma like attack is triggered, while medically this process is termed as edema. This onset can be treated with the use of a beta agonist.

Brittle Asthma:

Brittle asthma is further categorized into two sub-categorizes one is recurrent Type 1 (T1) and severe Type 2 (T2). In case of Type 1, the patient shows lots of variability during a PEFR test and Type 2 case may show a sudden drop in PEFR while the background of the patient is under control. Though this type of asthma is rare, it is advised by the medical experts that the patients should avoid allergy triggers and must also be administer injections of beta2 agonist.

Occupational Asthma:

This is case of asthma is triggered from work places like those people working in fabric, flour or cement factories. People exposed on regular level to dust at a cement factory or flour or fiber dust of cloths suffer from such asthma and in most cases this is not reported and thus this can worsen with the passage of time. This type of asthma can be prevented by using adequate measures to avoid inhaling of dust or fiber.

Causes of Asthma:

Asthma can be caused by genetic factors and environmental factors. In case of environmental factors it’s been pointed out that dust is a major factor to trigger allergy based asthma attack. Apart from dust, pollen, exposures to domestic animals like cats or dogs, insects and obesity are also factors that could trigger asthma. Smoking during or after delivery is also known to have triggered asthma in children. In case of genetics there are over a 100 genes associated with asthma, and they vary from place to place and from people to people.


The medication can be divided on the bases of short term or fast acting and long term control. Fast acting medicine can be used to overcome any immediate onset. These medicines include inhalers with Salbutamol as the medicine. Long term medicines are used to control the disease completely or to control the asthma from occurring again. These medicines include Glucco corticoids, which is the only FDA recommended medicine to be used for long term use. They can be used in form of inhalers or tablets in most severe cases. Asthma is a reversible disease and can be controlled through proper treatment and care. If left unattended it can be fatal. People with asthma should avoid places where dust or pollen is in excess and must try to use face masks so as to avoid inhaling them which may trigger allergic asthma.

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