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Severe Asthma

What is severe asthma? How can you deal with it?

Air travels in and out of your lungs through the airways. Airway smooth-muscle tissue surrounds the walls of the airways. People with asthma have more airway smooth muscle than people who don’t have asthma. An asthma attack is characterized by the swelling or constriction of the muscle that surrounds the airways in the lungs, so that the airways become narrowed and air cannot flow normally.

What are the symptoms of asthma?

A person having an asthma attack may feel his chest tightening and experience wheezing and coughing, and may have trouble breathing. Asthma can be unpredictable and can limit many aspects of a person’s life from physical activity to work, school, and time spent with friends and family.

What causes asthma?

The exact cause of asthma isn’t known. Researchers think some genetic, environmental and even psychological factors interact to cause asthma, most often early in life.  Causes can range from an inherited tendency or contact with some substances that develop allergies in infancy or in early childhood. Also, the exposure to irritants (for example, factory chimneys or tobacco smoke) might make your airways more reactive to substances in the air.

How is asthma diagnosed?

There are many tests to diagnose asthma.

Fist, your doctor will listen to your breathing and look for signs of asthma or allergies. These signs include wheezing, a runny nose or swollen nasal passages.

Your doctor can also use a test called spirometry to check how your lungs are working. This test measures how much air you can breathe in and out. Your doctor may recommend an allergy test too.

How is asthma treated?

Short-term (rescue) asthma medications offer temporary relief by relaxing the airway muscle so that it does not block the airways during an asthma attack, but they do not work in patients with severe asthma.

Bronchial thermoplasty (BT) is a new and safe outpatient procedure that uses mild heat to actually reduce the amount of excess airway smooth muscle tissue in the airways. With less of this tissue, the airways constrict less, breathing is easier, and there is less likelihood of an asthma attack. It also reduces the need of an oral steroid treatment that has some side effects.

Bronchial thermoplasty does not replace your asthma medication. Instead, it works with your asthma medications to give you added, long-lasting protection from serious asthma symptoms. In a clinical study, 79% of severe asthma patients treated with BT reported significant improvements in their asthma-related quality of life.

Prevention  

While there is no way to prevent asthma, measures can be taken to control the disease and prevent symptoms if some asthma indicators appear in childhood. For example, you should identify and treat asthma triggers (allergens) and check regularly.