What is Asthma?
It is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways, which manifests with inflammation, airway obstruction, and increased airway sensitivity to a variety of stimuli. All of these changes are reversible.
Who gets Asthma?
Asthma tends to run in families, and affects close to 20% of the population in New Zealand. It can occur at all ages, but the onset is most common during childhood. Complete remission (the disappearance of the condition) is common among children.
In spite of better medical care, newer drugs and increased awareness, the incidence and mortality due to this frightening condition has continued to increase over the past 20 years
What Causes the Problems?
While the underlying cause may be elusive, the obstruction in the airways happens when some (or all) of the factors below occur:
- spasm of the muscles that line the airway (bronchospasm)
- excessive fluid build-up in the lining of the airway
- increased secretion of mucous
- injury to the lining of the airway
Some cases of asthma are linked to genetic predisposition associated with overly-sensitive airways. While links have been made with the ADAM33 and FCER1A genes, other genes, and their expression, may increase one’s reactiveness, or likelihood of an exaggerated inflammatory response.
Attacks can be triggered by food or environmental antigens (pollen, moulds, animal dander) in a person who has an allergic tendency. In some people there is no known allergic cause from a main-stream standpoint, but extra allergens are often found on doing delayed IgG Food IntoleranceTesting. However, asthma can also be triggered by infections, chemicals, drugs, cold air, exercise and emotional stress. Read here about the link between asthma and other histamine-related problems.
What are the Symptoms of Asthma?
The frequency and severity of symptoms vary greatly from person to person and can also be different from episode to episode in the same person.
Usually, an attack begins acutely with difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing.
The patient generally wants to sit upright or lean forward, they often become anxious and uses upper chest muscles – around the shoulders. Unfortunately this tends to create a stress response which exacerbates the whole episode.
In the attack is severe, the patient may come blue, confused and lethargic. These symptoms are indication of serious problems and one should get to hospital without delay.
How is Asthma Diagnosed?
Diagnosis usually occurs as a result of an episode or asthma attack. However having asthma symptoms develop while one has a cold or chest infection does not mean that one has become asthmatic – such symptoms will resolve with the return to good health.
There are a number of different tests of respiratory function, which may or may not be normal, depending on the state of bronchospasm at the time of the test. A good test is spirometry – this measures airflow limitation and records the volume of air exhaled against time in a maximal expiration.
Between attacks, individuals are usually asymptomatic.
How is Asthma Managed?
Medical Management includes inhaled bronchodilators, both as preventatives for acute episodes. While bronchodilators can be life-saving, they are not without side effects.
A principle of a holistic management strategy is to use naturopathic principles to improve the overall health of the respiratory and immune systems with the goal of reducing the dependence on inhaled drugs. Where it is deemed appropriate, referral to a Breathing Specialist may be recommended.
For a natural approach to retraining your respiratory system book an appointment with one of consultants today.