We do not know for sure what causes asthma, the chronic inflammation of the airways. What we do know is that allergies of certain kinds may cause asthma in some individuals. There are factors or allergens like food, chemicals, air pollutants and drugs that can trigger an attack. So, if you or one of your loved ones has asthma, the first and foremost thing to do is to ascertain the risk factors.
An accurate diagnosis is the key to effective treatment. Getting some asthma tests done in a laboratory, would be a good start.
There are many tests which may be carried out depending on the severity of the disease. The two most important asthma tests are:
1. Lung Function Tests – These tests includes Spirometry and Metacholine Challenge Test which assess the functioning of the lungs
2. Allergy Test -This test helps in ascertaining which allergens are causing the asthma.
Chest X-ray and arterial blood gas analysis are some of the other tests that are done for this condition. Another test is the Peak flow measurement test. this test helps measure how quickly you can blow air out of your lungs. This is an important test for monitoring and predicting an attack. If the recorded value is less than fifty percent of that a normal person, it indicates potential of some attack. A value in the range of fifty percent to eight percent is an indication of a possibility of moderate attack of asthma.
Once the risk factors and diagnosis have been ascertained, we come to asthma treatment. The fact remains that there is no permanent cure for asthma. But, that is no reason to be disorganized because the symptoms can be well managed and even kept at bay.
Asthma is treated with anti-inflammatory drugs and bronchodilators (airway openers). Medication can be broadly categorized into long acting remedies and quick relief medications. Long acting medications are for preventing attacks. The list includes various corticosteroids, bronchodilators, leukotriene inhibitors and aminophylline.
Quick relief medications are given during an attack to provide rapid relief. The short acting bronchodilators like Proventil or Ventolin are used for opening up the airways and intravenous corticosteroids like methylprednisolone are used for reducing inflammation. Your doctor will be the best person to assess what medication might work for you depending on your allergen and other factors.
Nebulizers and inhalers are two devices that are often used for delivering medication to the lungs. The former turns liquid medicine into mist which is then delivered to your lungs while the latter sends a metered dose in aerosol or dry powdered form. It is important to learn how to use these devices correctly and practice them for effective delivery of the medicine.
Anyone may be infected with Asthma at any time. It is important to understand the disease and learn how to live with it without letting it affect your normal day to day functioning.
Self care plays an integral role in prolonging the symptom free period. Home air filtration systems can prove to be highly beneficial. Monitoring your symptoms in asthma management is just as important as the diagnosis. Keeping a peak flow meter handy always pays as it can warn you about the impending attack.
After all, forewarned is forearmed!