Asthma is a disease that affects the airways of lungs. During an asthma attack these airways restrict the smooth movement of air which makes breathing difficult. This is caused due to the constriction of smooth muscles in the airways resulting in swelling of the inner linings of breathing tubes. In addition mucus is secreted to this swollen airway, making the symptoms even worse. The onset of disease occurs when the patient is exposed to various triggering factors. The most common asthma triggering factors are dust, smoke, odour, pollen, fur and feathers, exercise, cold or wet climatic conditions, emotional stress, fungal spores etc.
Thus for a proper control of disease the patient should avoid contact with these triggering factors. Asthma is generally considered as an individual situation. This is because in each individual the level of severity differs. Thus the mode of treatment also differs depending upon the severity of the disease. The asthma is divided into three levels of severity. They are Mild, Moderate and Severe asthma. In rare cases brittle asthma is also seen.
The symptoms of mild asthma are not severe and also the duration between attacks is also very long. The symptoms of mild asthma are quite similar to that of other types of asthma i.e., wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath but the only difference is in the intensity and frequency of attack. So if left untreated it may develop into severe situation. The symptoms will be seen more than once per week and less than once per day. On the other hand the frequency of night symptoms will be less than twice per month. In more than 80 percentages of cases the onset of symptoms could be predicted by a Peak Flow Meter. The patient might feel breathlessness while walking and the intensity of wheezing will be moderate. Treatment of mild asthma is done using quick reliever medicines mostly bronchodilators.
Moderate asthma symptoms may occur once or twice a week. The major symptoms are coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. These symptoms may last for several days. The night time symptoms will be seen more than once per week. The patient might feel breathlessness while talking and the intensity of wheezing will be loud. In 60 – 80 percentages of patients the peak Flow meter can predict the onset of symptoms. In some patients an exhausting exercise was found to induce moderate asthma. Rarely some patients may require emergency medical care. Inhaled beta agonist is used for quick relief of symptoms. To prevent further attack inhaled steroid medications are used.
In severe asthma the symptoms are often continuous. The intensity of attack is more frequent. In some patients the symptoms will be seen daily. Thus it may affect the overall daily activity of that patient. The nocturnal symptoms are also quit frequent. The condition is induced by triggering factors like cold climate, severe exercise etc. In most of the cases the patient requires emergency care. The patient might feel breathlessness even at rest. The wheezing intensity is very loud. The peak flow meter was found to be successful in predicting the disease in less than 60 percentages of patients. The patient often feels very much difficulty in speaking and will have to take breath after each word. For treatment of severe asthma the patient requires daily intake of both preventer medicines and relief medicines. Steroid drugs are given for the quick relief of the symptoms.
This type of asthma is very rare. Only one in 2000 patients suffers from brittle asthma. This is an extremely severe type of asthma. The onset of brittle asthma is unpredictable i.e. the onset is very sudden. The symptoms are mostly a life threatening and the attack may occur even if the patient is under strong medication. Nebulisers are used to take medicines as the patient is too weak to use an inhaler. The patient will be given steroid tablets along with bronchodilator medicines.