This is a complete guide to Asthma in adults. Topics covered are Symptoms of asthma, difference between “child” and “adult” asthma, How is asthma diagnosed in adults and treatment of asthma.
Asthma in adults
If there are asthma symptoms and an accurate diagnosis is made for an adult over the age of 20, then this is considered “adult asthma.” This asthma is more common in women than in men and is usually associated with allergies or allergic asthma. Half of all adults with asthma have allergies to various substances.
Also, the cause of asthma can be the result of habitual phenomena at work (such asthma is called “professional” asthma) or in a home environment: constantly encountering these conditions, the symptoms can suddenly deteriorate.
What is asthma?
Asthma – a violation of the lungs, the cause of which is:
- Swelling of the respiratory tract (or their inflammation)
- Formation of a large amount of mucus (more than normal)
- Narrowing of the airways due to contraction and contraction of muscle tissue around the respiratory tract.
Symptoms of asthma include:
- Sensation of lack of air
- A frequent cough, especially at night
- Sighing breath (whistling sound during breathing)
- Labored breathing
What is asthma in adults?
If a doctor diagnoses asthma to a person older than 20 years, this is considered “adult asthma.”
Those who are most prone to such asthma include:
- Women who are currently experiencing hormonal changes, such as pregnancy or menopause
- Women taking estrogen for more than 10 years to prevent menopause
- Anyone who has recently had a viral illness, such as a cold or flu
- People who are obese
- People with allergies, especially cats
- People who are often among irritants, for example, tobacco smoke, dust, fluff or perfume with a strong odour. Irritants that cause asthma symptoms are called “asthma triggers.” Asthma obtained at work is called “professional asthma.”
What is the difference between “child” and “adult” asthma?
Symptoms of asthma in children can appear and pass, while in adults the symptoms can appear regularly and last for a long time. In most cases, adults need to take medication daily to monitor the course of the disease.
In adults, the volume of the lungs (volume of inhaled and exhaled in one second of air) decreases with age due to changes in muscle tissues and insufficient flexibility of the chest. It is the reduction in lung volume that does not allow doctors to determine the onset of the development of the disease – asthma.
How is asthma diagnosed in adults?
The doctor diagnoses by doing the following:
- To study the medical history, to ask about the exciting symptoms, to listen to the breath
- Conduct a lung function test using a device called a spirometer. With it, the amount of inhaled air is measured during a deep inspiration. The device also measures how quickly the lungs get rid of the air. Probably, before or after such examination the doctor will ask to inhale a bronchodilator (bronchodilator) of short-term action (a medicine that opens the airways by relaxing the muscles compressing them and also helps to clear the lungs of mucus).
- Test with a load of methacholine. It is possible to carry out this test if the symptoms and spirometer examination does not give accurate results. During inspiration, if there is asthma, methacholine will cause spasm and constriction of the airways. During the examination, methacholine is inhaled with an aerosol before and after spirometry. The results of the test with methacholine are considered positive, but they show the presence of asthma if the lung capacity is 20% less than normal. After conducting such a survey, a bronchodilator, neutralizing the action of methacholine, is always used.
- Radiography of the chest. Radiography is an image of the body, which is obtained through a small dose of radiation reflected on a special film or fluorescent screen. Radiography is used to detect not only asthma but also other diseases and conditions of the body, from bronchitis to the broken bone. A doctor can prescribe a radiograph for examining the interior of the chest, including the heart, lungs and bones. After examining the lungs, the doctor can tell whether your symptoms refer to asthma or to what other diseases. Although x-rays are used to diagnose asthma, but at the same time it often happens that the patient has asthma, the results of the X-ray are absolutely normal.
Who suffers from asthma?
Anyone at any age can get asthma. People are at greater risk:
- With genetic predisposition to asthma
- With the presence of various forms of allergies (allergic asthma)
- Living next to smokers
- Living in an industrial zone
How is asthma classified?
Asthma is divided into four categories, depending on the frequency of symptoms and objective indicators, for example, the parameters of the instrument of a pneumotachometer and / or the results of spirometry. Categories: light intermittent, easy constant, moderate constant, acute constant. The physician should determine the category of the disease and prescribe a treatment regimen for asthma, depending on the frequency of symptoms and the performance of the lungs. It is very important to remember that every person has asthma can manifest themselves in different ways in each category.
Light intermittent asthma
- Symptoms worsen less than twice a week, at night during sleep – less than twice a month
- Asthma attacks last not for long (from several hours to several days)
- The results of lung health testing – more than 80% of the predicted value. The prognosis is usually made on the basis of age, gender and height. For a patient with asthma, the “predicted” indicator can eventually be replaced with a better one for further comparison
Light persistent asthma
- Symptoms manifest more than twice a week, but not every day
- The results of lung health testing – more than 80% of the predicted value
Moderate persistent asthma
- Symptoms worsen daily
- Symptoms of asthma affect physical activity, it occurs more than twice a week and can last several days
- There is a weakening of the lungs’ performance, the test results are from 60% to 80% of the predicted value
Acute persistent asthma
- Symptoms are manifested constantly, not excluding nighttime, during sleep
- Physical activity is limited
- The lung capacity is below 60% of the predicted value
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How is asthma treated?
Asthma can be controlled, but there is no single effective treatment for asthma. There are definite goals in the treatment. If they can not be achieved, this means that the body is in serious condition. In this case, you should always consult with your doctor about further treatment.
The goals of treatment are as follows:
- Live a normal and fulfilling life
- Prevent the development of chronic and constantly worrisome symptoms
- Every day to go to work or study
- Stop emergency doctor calls, emergency calls or hospitalizations
- To take and regulate taking medication to control the course of the disease with minimal or no side effects
The correct intake of medication, as prescribed by the doctor, as well as avoiding a collision with pathogens of the symptoms of the disease – is a key moment in controlling asthma. There are two main types of medications for the treatment and prevention of asthma:
This is the main type of medication used to treat most cases of asthma. Anti-inflammatory drugs, for example, inhaled steroids, reduce the inflammatory process and the formation of mucus in the airways. Thanks to these preparations, the airways become less sensitive to external stimuli. But to feel the result may take several weeks of daily intake of these drugs. Anti-inflammatory drugs reduce the severity of the symptoms of the disease, improve oxygen flow through the respiratory tract, reduce their sensitivity and damage, and, consequently, reduce the frequency of asthma attacks. With a daily intake, they help control the course of the disease and even prevent its further development.
These drugs help to relax the muscle tissue that constricts the airways. The bronchodilators act instantly: they expand the respiratory tract, which allows breathing and exhaling more oxygen, thereby normalizing breathing. These drugs also help to clear the lungs of mucus.
As soon as the airway opens as much as possible, nothing is already holding up the mucus in the lungs and it passes freely through the respiratory tract and is easily expectorated. If the medicine is of short duration, it helps to relieve or remove symptoms during a sudden asthma attack. Long-acting drugs help to control the course of the disease, as well as prevent repeated attacks.
Acceptance of medications for the treatment of asthma can be of two types: by inhaling the drug (metered-dose inhaler, powder inhaler or nebulizer) and by swallowing oral medications (tablets or liquid preparations). When taking medications at the same time to treat other diseases, you should consult your doctor about the compatibility of the medication and, if possible, reduce the number of medications taken.
A very important part of the treatment is the tracking of whether the lungs function correctly. Follow the symptoms of asthma helps a special device – a pneumotachometer. The device allows you to always be aware of any changes in the state of the airways, which may be a sign of worsening of the disease. Daily use of a pneumotachometer may suggest how to regulate the intake of medications to maintain the normal state of the body. And also the data of this device the doctor can use for drawing up of the program of treatment.
Based on the medical history and the severity of the symptoms, the doctor paints a regimen called a treatment program. The program describes how to take medications, what to do if you get worse and when you need to go to the emergency room. After the doctor has made the program, make sure that you understand it correctly. If you have any questions, ask them your doctor.