Asthma

Asthma:  a condition marked by recurrent attacks of paroxysmal dyspnea, with wheezing due to spasmodic contraction of the bronchi.  In some cases, it is an allergic manifestation in sensitized persons.

Asthma produces episodic, reversible airway obstruction by way of bronchospasms, increased mucus secretion, and mucosal edema.  Although this common condition can strike at any age, children under age 10 account for half the cases.  Underlining the significance of hereditary predisposition, approximately 1/3 of all asthmatics share the condition with at least one member of their immediate family.

Cause:  Intrinsic asthma can result from irritants, emotional stress, fatigue, temperature and humidity changes, endocrine changes, or exposure to noxious fumes.

Extrinsic asthma follows exposure to pollen, animal dander, house dust or mold, food additives containing sulfites, or other sensitizing substances.

Other asthma causes can include aspirin, various nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, exercise, or occupational exposure to various allergenic factors.

Symptoms:

Sudden dyspnea (labored or difficulty breathing)

Wheezing

Tightness in the chest

Coughing (with clear or yellow sputum)

Tachypnea (very rapid breathing) may occur along with use of accessory respiratory muscles

Rapid pulse

May experience profuse perspiration

An acute asthma attack begins dramatically, with simultaneous onset of severe multiple symptoms, or insidiously, with gradually increasing respiratory distress

Asthma that occurs with cyanosis, confusion, and lethargy indicates the onset of life-threatening status asthmaticus and respiratory failure.

Treatment:

Identifying and avoiding precipitating factors, such as allergens or irritants, represents treatment's goal.  Usually, such stimuli cannot be removed entirely.  Desensitization to specific antigens may be helpful but is rarely totally effective or persistent.

Bronchodilators - oral inhalers/oral pills

Corticosteroids

Patient teaching:  Adequate hydration and diet is important in treating asthma

Peek flow helps to determine breathing level (not a full proof reliable system)

Be aware and prompt treatment for respiratory infection

Keep inhalers with you at all times (use it as prescribed by your doctor)

Also keep nebulizer readily available at all times

Call or seek medical treatment immediately when medication does not work and when patient has difficulty breathing.

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