I was born with the condition known as asthma. My earliest memories are of my mother rushing me to the emergency room at all hours of the night. I have not-so-good recollections of coughing, wheezing, and struggling to get air.
However, like many children with this disease, my symptoms disappeared by the time I reached puberty. So, even though I was spared adult asthma problems, I was a sickly kid. I was saddled with a disease that was triggered by just about every allergy under the sun. Therefore, you might say that through personal experience, coupled with a little research, I’ve learned a fair bit about asthma.
Causes: Asthma occurs when mast cells in the bronchi come in contact with “harmless” substances they “think” are harmful and foreign. Similar to an allergic reaction, the mast cells release histamine and leukotrienes. The result:
Spasms of the bronchial muscles
Inflammation and swelling of the tissues lining the lung airways
Large amounts of mucus secretion into the airways
Narrowing of the airways leading to chest tightness and difficulty breathing
Conditions and substances that can trigger an asthma attack include:
Sinusitis and asthma have quite a few things in common. If you notice, many of the triggers that cause sinusitis, also cause asthma. I’m no doctor, but I don’t believe that it’s an accident that over 50 percent of asthma sufferers also have sinus problems.
Many researchers agree that sinusitis can either cause or worsen an asthma attack. The nose and lungs are connected. Any infection of the nose can travel to the lungs. An overflow of infected mucus from the nose can enter the lung airways via the trachea and bronchi.
Doctor Jordan S. Josephson, M.D., director of New York’s Nasal and Sinus Center tells us that postnasal drip can lead to asthmatic flare-ups. I know from personal experience that postnasal drip leads to severe coughing and fluid retention in the lungs.
Therefore, the classic sinusitis symptoms can lead to the classic asthma symptoms in people who are prone to the disease. In other words, the infection that begins in the nasal cavities can travel down into the lungs.
Also, people who have obstructions in their noses, such as nasal polyps are prone to asthma attacks as well.
Non-Allergy Sufferers: People with allergies and sinusitis aren’t the only ones prone to asthma. As stated above, an asthma attack can be triggered by exposure to cold air or even exercise. The reaction to these normally harmless activities is the same: Chest tightness, hyperventilation, wheezing, and coughing.
Diagnosis: Asthma is not always easy to diagnose. I remember as a child, my mother carrying me to the doctor for what seemed like endless visits. I remember a series of allergy tests to determine what was causing my attacks. That’s when it was discovered that I was allergic to practically everything known to man, including certain foods.
Today, a patient may be given a series of pulmonary function tests to diagnose and/or eliminate lung disorders. These include:
Spirometry test which measures the force of the patient’s inhalations and exhalations
Pulse oximetry which is a device placed on the finger to measure the oxygen content of the blood. Less air flows into the lungs during an acute asthma attack
Arterial blood gas test which is a blood test used to check the amount of oxygen in the blood
Chest X-Rays; during an attack, the lung appearance is inflated due to excessive trapped air
Asthma Treatment: How the disease is treated depends on the type of asthma the patient is suffering from. For example, exercise-induced asthma can be treated with beta-antagonist agents which are taken before working out.
Inhaled Corticosteroids can be used for mild, persistent asthma attacks by making the airways less sensitive to stimuli. These may be used in combination with beta-antagonists.
Inhaled Corticosteroids may also be used for moderate, persistent attacks, but in higher dosage. They may be combined with short-acting beta-antagonists.
For acute, severe asthma attacks, you may be given multiple doses of short-acting beta-antagonists. Oral or intravenous Corticosteroids may be used for bronchial inflammation. Antibiotics will be used to deal with infection.
Surgery: Surgery is not an option for treating asthma, but for those who suffer from sinusitis which may require this treatment, there is good news.
According to Dr. Josephson, asthmatics that’ve had to undergo sinusitis surgery say their attacks occure less frequently.
Sources: “Sinus Relief Now”, by Jordan S. Josephson, M.D.
“The Sinus Cure”by Debra F. Bruce and Murray Grossan, M.D.
“The Merck Manual of Medical Information”