Her Check-Up: Let’s Talk About… Asthma
It's not uncommon to hear in Ireland that a friend is asthmatic. But what does this actually mean?
What is asthma?
Asthma is a respiratory condition that affects the airways. People who suffer from asthma find it difficult to breathe, as the airways often tighten up, making it narrow and difficult for oxygen to flow in and out to the lungs.
In times of seasonal change, the walls of the airways can become swollen and produce a sticky mucus, clogging up the breathing passages.
What are the causes of asthma?
Nearly half a million people in Ireland are asthmatic, with most cases occurring in childhood. Asthma can also affect families where one or both parents suffer with effects of the condition, or are sensitive to allergic reactions too.
Despite the most common diagnosis of asthma as being a childhood condition, adult onset asthma may develop after a respiratory tract infection, or as a result to modern lifestyles such as changes in housing, diet and a more sterile home environment. These factors may all have contributed to the rise in asthma over the last few decades.
What symptoms should you look out for with asthma?
Although most adults are diagnosed with asthma as a child, there are a number of symptoms that should be considered if you have yet to see a doctor. If you find difficulty in breathing or managing breathing techniques, it is advisable to take a class in dealing with asthma, or talk to a doctor about the best treatment options to suit your lifestyle.
The most common symptoms of asthma are:
- family history of asthma
- pattern of the symptoms
- A physical chest examination
- lung function test
- A trial of asthma treatment
When diagnosing your condition, a doctor may also ask if there are any conditions, such as eczema or hay fever that have affected your breathing or health. You may also be asked to keep a diary of which symptoms you recognise and when you have them. This will help your doctor choose the most accurate treatment for your condition and give you the chance to participate in a class following the night before.
How can you cure asthma?
Although asthma does not have a cure, it is important for people suffering from the condition to seek professional treatment.
The aim of asthma management is to keep an eye on your conditions and recognising when you may need to increase your medication dosage.
Asthma is often treated by a combination of inhalers.
Keep a record of when an inhaler is used and for how long. This will help determine the severity of an attack from early on.
For those who suffer with severe asthma, ask to speak to a doctor for steroid treatment and to discuss healthy lifestyle choices that will help improve your breathing as well as connecting with other patients who suffer with the condition.
For anyone who would like further information on asthma, contact the Asthma Society of Ireland to arrange for further groups or information evenings. Alternatively, contact your local GP who can determine whether you too suffer from the condition and can discuss the best methods of treatment for your illness.