By Damian Lee
Friday 19 November 2021

Understanding Symptoms and Types of Asthma

Understanding Symptoms and Types of Asthma

Table of Contents

I. Understanding the Function of the Lungs

II. What is Asthma?

III. Symptoms of Asthma

IV. Types of Asthma

V. Medications for Asthma

Understanding the Function of the Lungs

Healthy lungs help you breathe effortlessly so that you can participate in physical activities and carry out everyday tasks. When you inhale, air enters the windpipe (trachea) through the throat. The trachea divides into the left and right bronchi, continually dividing into increasingly narrower passageways. At the very end of these pathways are small, clustered air sacs called the alveoli. From the alveoli, oxygen is passed on to the blood vessels and carried to the rest of the body. Carbon dioxide and excess gas is then collected and expelled when you exhale, completing a breathing cycle. [1]

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic lung condition that affects millions of people worldwide and occurs when inflamed bronchi prevent oxygen from disseminating throughout the body. Asthma causes the airways in your lungs to swell and secrete excess mucus, which can lead to symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, and moderate to severe wheezing.

For the majority of people affected by asthma, symptoms are disruptive but mild. For the rest, asthma can cause severe symptoms, and asthma attacks can be life-threatening without prompt treatment. Depending on the seriousness and frequency of your asthma flare-ups, your doctor may prescribe different medications such as the Asmanex Twisthaler or the Flovent Inhaler. Read on to learn more about the symptoms and treatment options for asthma. [2]

Symptoms of Asthma

A woman coughing into her fist

Like we touched on above, the symptoms of asthma can range from mild to severe. Generally, asthma is known to cause:

  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Coughing or wheezing attacks
  • Difficulty sleeping due to breathlessness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing and troubles exhaling

Over time, asthma symptoms may gradually improve if you move to an environment with less pollution and airborne triggers. However, it is common for asthma symptoms to worsen if left untreated, especially if no lifestyle or dietary changes are made.

If you find that your symptoms are affecting you more frequently or you rely on your emergency inhaler more often, you may need to talk to your doctor. When you are diagnosed with asthma, you will be shown the four classifications and the category you fall under. This is a useful tool to gauge whether your symptoms are improving or deteriorating. [2]

Types of Asthma

a man with his hands spread out while standing on a cliff

To find out what type of asthma you have, your doctor will need to run a series of diagnostic tests. Several other lung conditions can cause similar symptoms, so it is important to get a proper diagnosis. To rule out pneumonia, other respiratory infections, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), your doctor will run a physical exam to look for the presence of infection or scarring.

To tell the severity of your asthma condition, your doctor may conduct one or both of these tests:

  • A spirometry test may be used to measure how much your bronchial tubes are narrowing.
  • A peak flow test may then be carried out to check your oxygen output after a deep inhalation.

The results from these tests will be used to determine your type of asthma. The categories are as follows:

  • Mild intermittent: symptoms affect your two days a week and up to two nights a month.
  • Mild persistent: flare-ups disrupt your activities more than twice a week but never more than once a day.
  • Moderate persistent: characterized by more than one asthma attack a day with symptoms affecting you more than one night per week.
  • Severe Persistent: you experience symptoms daily and frequently, even at night.[2]

Medications for Asthma

a man smoking underneath blue light

Asthma is often brought on by environmental factors like air pollution, smog exposure, fumes from gas vehicles, and second-hand smoke. This is why people who live in busy city centers are more likely to develop asthma. Smoking cigarettes is also one of the worst habits for lung health, significantly increasing your risk of asthma as well as several other breathing disorders.

The good news is that quitting smoking and changing from a heavily polluted area can give your lungs the relief they need to heal. However, major life changes are challenging to accomplish, which means asthma medications are often required to manage symptoms. [3]

Once your asthma is properly diagnosed, your doctor will be able to explain your treatment plan to you. Asthma patients are commonly prescribed one medication for long-term symptoms control and another drug for emergency use to relieve asthma attacks. Keeping a supply of your prescribed medications on hand is important. Online prescription and medication delivery services like MediCare Pharmacy make filling your medications a quick and simple task.

Medications for chronic, long-term symptoms generally include inhaled corticosteroids, leukotriene modifiers, and anticholinergic agents. Examples of inhaled corticosteroids include Flovent and Pulmicort, both of which usually need to be used for several days for their full benefit. Leukotriene modifiers block the chemicals in the lungs that cause your airways to tighten, and anticholinergic agents like Atrovent and Spiriva help to relax the airways to help with breathing. For emergencies when a quick-relief inhaler is required, your doctor may give you a short-acting beta-agonist like Ventolin. [2]

If you are concerned about your lung health, speak with your healthcare provider today. Changing your diet, exercise regime, and quitting smoking can be challenging to do alone. It is much more possible with a team who’s got your back. With the right asthma treatment plan, you can control symptoms from exacerbating. Asthma treatments work most effectively when taken regularly, so make sure you stay committed to your treatment plan. Speak with your doctor to discuss your lung health in greater detail.

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Reference Resources

Knowledge Base

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