Asthma is a common condition which affects the tubes which carry air from the mouth to the lungs (airways). The condition is characterised by a tightening and restriction of these airways which can be triggered or exacerbated by:
- Certain types of allergies
- Smoking and other chemicals
- Extremes of temperature
There is also a genetic predisposition to developing asthma. The disease tends to start in childhood or adolescence and a percentage of childhood sufferers of the condition may grow out it through adulthood. Fortunately, with the correct management, asthma is not a life limiting condition for the vast majority of those affected.
Airway restriction in sufferers of asthma is the most common and potentially dangerous problem associated with the condition. This restriction is caused by two primary factors. Firstly, the muscles around the airways spasm and physically tighten around the airway and secondly, the airways themselves can inflame reducing space for the air to flow.
In prolonged cases of irritation to the airways or when asthma sufferers have a respiratory infection or virus this airway restriction may be further exacerbated by excess secretions lining the wall of the airway.
The result of these factors produces the typical symptoms of asthma which include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
A preliminary diagnosis of Asthma can be made by a trained healthcare professional based on the history of the problem and the typical symptoms. To confirm the diagnosis a battery of tests, known as lung function tests may be used.
- Peak flow tests
- Spirometry tests
- FeNO testing
Peak flow and spirometry tests give the doctors an indication of how quickly individuals are able to breath out. In asthmatic patients, the rate of expiration will be reduced. FeNO tests are designed to monitor chemicals which are produced by inflamed lung tissue.
Circle Health’s respiratory doctors are able to use the full spectrum of possible tests when investigating possible new diagnoses of asthma.
Inhalers are the standard treatment for asthma sufferers and they broadly fall in to two categories. Sufferers of asthma will have a prescribed inhaler to be used on a regular basis to prevent symptoms from deteriorating (preventer inhaler).
To relieve symptoms from asthma when they do occur, most asthma sufferers also benefit from a reliever inhaler to help relax the muscles around their airways.
During periods where symptoms have not responded to inhalers a short course of oral steroids may be used to reduce inflammation in the airways more effectively and when symptoms rapidly deteriorate (commonly referred to as an asthma attack) steroids may be given as a nebuliser (inhaled through a mask).
Our expert respiratory clinicians at Circle Health are able to prescribe the right treatment approach for every asthma sufferer according to their individual circumstances.