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About Asthma

Asthma (from the Greek á¼σθμα, ásthma, "panting") is a common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction and bronchospasm. Common symptoms include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath.

Asthma is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.Its diagnosis is usually based on the pattern of symptoms, response to therapy over time and spirometry.It is clinically classified according to the frequency of symptoms, forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), and peak expiratory flow rate. Asthma may also be classified as atopic (extrinsic) or non-atopic (intrinsic) where atopy refers to a predisposition toward developing type 1 hypersensitivity reactions.

Signs and symptoms

Treatment of acute symptoms is usually with an inhaled short-acting beta-2 agonist (such as salbutamol) and oral corticosteroids. In very severe cases, intravenous corticosteroids, magnesium sulfate, and hospitalization may be required. Symptoms can be prevented by avoiding triggers, such as allergens and irritants, and by the use of inhaled corticosteroids. Long-acting beta agonists (LABA) or leukotriene antagonists may be used in addition to inhaled corticosteroids if asthma symptoms remain uncontrolled. The occurrence of asthma has increased significantly since the 1970s. In 2011, 235–300 million people globally have been diagnosed with asthma, and it caused 250,000 deaths.

Asthma is characterized by recurrent episodes of wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing. Sputum may be produced from the lung by coughing but is often hard to bring up. During recovery from an attack it may appear pus like due to high levels of white blood cells called eosinophils.Symptoms are usually worse at night and in the early morning or in response to exercise or cold air. Some people with asthma rarely experience symptoms, usually in response to triggers, whereas others may have marked and persistent symptoms.

Causes

Asthma is caused by a combination of complex and incompletely understood environmental and genetic interactions. These factors influence both its severity and its responsiveness to treatment. It is believed that the recent increased rates of asthma are due to changing epigenetics (heritable factors other than those related to the DNA sequence) and a changing living environment.

Diagnosis

While asthma is a well recognized condition, there is not one universal agreed upon definition. It is defined by the Global Initiative for Asthma as "a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways in which many cells and cellular elements play a role. The chronic inflammation is associated with airway hyper-responsiveness that leads to recurrent episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing particularly at night or in the early morning. These episodes are usually associated with widespread but variable airflow obstruction within the lung that is often reversible either spontaneously or with treatment

Management

While there is no cure for asthma, symptoms can typically be improved. A specific, customized plan for proactively monitoring and managing symptoms should be created. This plan should include the reduction of exposure to allergens, testing to assess the severity of symptoms, and the usage of medications. The treatment plan should be written down and advise adjustments to treatment according to changes in symptoms.

The most effective treatment for asthma is identifying triggers, such as cigarette smoke, pets, or aspirin, and eliminating exposure to them. If trigger avoidance is insufficient, the use of medication is recommended. Pharmaceutical drugs are selected based on, among other things, the severity of illness and the frequency of symptoms. Specific medications for asthma are broadly classified into fast-acting and long-acting categories.

Epidemiology

As of 2011, 235–330 million people worldwide are affected by asthma, and approximately 250,000-345,000 people die per year from the disease.Rates vary between countries with prevalences between 1 and 18%. It is more common in developed than developing countries.One thus sees lower rates in Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa.Within developed countries it is more common in those who are economically disadvantaged while in contrast in developing countries it is more common in the affluent. The reason for these differences is not well known.

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