Asthma is an inflammatory disease that affects 300 million people worldwide. It is the most common form of chronic lung disease and in Australia, 1 in 9 people are diagnosed with Asthma at some stage in their life.
When an asthma attack occurs, the lining of the small airways in your lungs initiates an inflammatory response and becomes swollen, secreting mucus. This stimulates the smooth muscle in the airways to tighten, causing the airways to narrow, resulting in breathing difficulty and potentially a life-threatening situation.
Did you know?
Asthma can affect both adults and children. Furthermore, adults can develop asthma even if they did not have it as a child.
The onset of an asthma attack can be scary for all those involved, the speed of which can vary. Some can be gradual, and some can be almost instantaneous.
Each year approximately 400 Australians die from asthma, so it is essential to be able to recognise the symptoms.
The symptoms of asthma include:
- Feeling tight in the chest or lungs.
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty talking
- Anxiousness or panic
- Shallow rapid breathing
What causes asthma?
Asthma has been linked to numerous causes; these include:
- Genetic factors: having a family history of asthma can mean you are more likely to develop asthma.
- Exposure to tobacco smoke. Smoking can affect both the smoker and those exposed to environmental tobacco smoke (second-hand smoke). Smoking has been linked to adult-onset asthma in people with allergies, while childhood-onset asthma has a high correlation in families with smoking in the home.
- Obesity and lack of exercise are also risk factors. Obesity increases the risk of developing asthma in both adults and children. Furthermore, asthma symptoms are worse in obese adults and children compared to patients who are not obese.
- Gender is also a factor, as boys are more likely to develop asthma as children, but women are twice as likely to develop adult-onset asthma as men.
Asthma has triggers
Many risk factors are associated with the development of asthma and different types of triggers. Triggers can vary from one person to the next.
Common triggers include:
- Having a cold or the flu.
- Inhaling allergens substances that can form an allergic response) and environmental irritants (such as pollen, dust mites, mould spores, and tobacco smoke.
- Rapid temperature changes, especially exposure to cold temperatures.
- Some medications, for example, aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Skin, saliva or fur from animals or pets.
Asthma can have different age onsets and triggers. Management of asthma is not a “one size fits all” solution. Have your asthma assessed and reviewed by booking an appointment with one of our GPs.