Asthma: Fast Facts



The Disease

♦ Asthma is a chronic (incurable) respiratory disease which entails constant swelling of the respiratory tract resulting in congestion or chest tightening. The associated conditions are gastro-oesophageal reflux (unnatural relaxation of the Lower Oesophageal Sphincter), rhinosinusitis (aggravated sinus), obstructive sleep apnea (disruption of sleep due to lower oxygen levels) and anxiety and mood disorders

♦ When the symptoms are triggered, the muscles around the bronchial tubes get even more inflamed resulting in difficulty in the flow of air which causes shortness of breath, wheezing, etc

♦ The experience of symptoms is stronger at night or early morning. This is the case even when the patient is exposed to cold air or has undergone vigorous physical exercise

♦ A range of factors contribute to the development of this disease, including environmental (pollution and allergens), genetic (passed on from a parent) and if a person has been a patient of atopic diseases

♦ Currently, there is no precise test to confirm the prevalence of the illness but methods such as spirometry and the methacholine challenge are used to determine the presence of asthma


Common symptoms include chest congestion, breathlessness, wheezing, coughing and presence of sputum in cough which is difficult to bring up. The symptoms are stronger at night and early morning or when exposed to cold air or after exercise.

If gone untreated for a long time, asthma can cause increased swelling of the bronchial tubes. Lack of treatment can also lead to remodelling of the lung tissue and scarring, which can eventually lead to disabilities.

Types of Asthma

There are four types of Asthma:

1. Exercise-Induced Bronchocontriction (EIB)

Many asthma patients experience the symptoms when they engage in physical activity.

2. Allergic Asthma

This type of asthma is triggered after inhaling various allergens that an asthmatic is sensitive to, such as dust, pollen, mould, etc.

3. Occupational Asthma

This type of asthma generally appears after months or years of exposure to hazardous substances such as hydrochloric acid, sulphur dioxide or ammonia usually found in chemical or petroleum industries.

4. Childhood Asthma

It is one of the most common diseases in children, which is also difficult to diagnose. Apart from the symptoms mentioned, children also experience reduced levels of energy and weakness.

Asthma based on gender

• Girls are more prone to the development of the disease than boys during childhood

• After reaching the age of 40, the ratio flips with more males having adult asthma than females


Burden of disease, measured by disability adjusted life years per 1,00,000 population, attributed to asthma by age group and sex [Global population, 2010]

Source: Global Asthma Report 2014 by Global Asthma Network and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation

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Disability adjusted life years per 1,00,000



Fast: Short-acting beta2-adrenoceptor agonists (SABA) and anticholinergic medications can be used to provide quick relief for people with moderate to severe symptoms

Long term: Corticosteroids either inhaled or taken orally are said to be an effective method to control the occurrence of the symptoms when taken once or twice daily.


• There are no means to prevent the occurrence of asthma. However, a change in lifestyle can prove to be an effective measure to manage the recurrence of the symptoms.

• Identification of triggering agents or allergens such as pollen, cigarette smoke, pets, etc, and a reduced exposure to them can help in curbing its recurrence.

• Exercise has been proven to be beneficial for people who are stable patients of the disease, under the supervision of a physician.


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