Bronchial asthma or just colloquially just asthma is a chronic inflammation of the airways. Coughing attacks, shortness of breath and overstimulation of the lungs or bronchi by environmental stimuli are typical of asthma.
What is bronchial asthma?
Abbreviated as BA by abbreviationfinder, the term bronchial asthma is a chronic disease of the airways. The bronchial mucous membrane reacts particularly sensitively to the various stimuli and swells in the process. The lungs also produce thick mucus. The airways are narrowed, the muscles of the smaller airways contract like a spasm.
Bronchial asthma is therefore characterized by recurring attacks of shortness of breath, coughing and shortness of breath. Bronchial asthma can be considered one of the most common chronic diseases. It occurs in all age groups. Boys in particular develop the disease in childhood.
The exact causes of bronchial asthma are still unknown today. It is assumed that genetic factors as well as environmental influences can be the cause. Allergic complaints also play a role. They are risk factors in the development of bronchial asthma. One example of this is hay fever in particular.
A variety of stimuli can trigger an asthma attack. Physical exertion, cold, perfume or air pollution, allergens such as pollen, dust and animal hair and inflammation of the respiratory tract can all cause an acute attack. In bronchial asthma, a distinction is made between allergic and non-allergic asthma.
In allergic asthma, attempts are made to identify the triggers in order to avoid contact with them. This is done using blood samples and skin tests. In non-allergic asthma, for example, infections of the respiratory tract or drug intolerance lead to an attack. The use of room sprays or cleaning agents can also greatly increase the development of bronchial asthma.
Symptoms, ailments & signs
The so-called asthma triad is associated with three specific reactions. Initially, the bronchial mucous membranes form large amounts of tough mucus. In the next step, the airways narrow and the respiratory muscles cramp. This process makes it difficult to breathe and is accompanied by a number of side effects.
Typical signs of bronchial asthma are, for example, a noticeable tightness of the chest with pain behind the breastbone at the beginning of an attack. In addition, there are often breathing difficulties that make speaking difficult, as well as noises when breathing out or an increase in heart rate to over 100 beats per minute.
Typical symptoms also include attack-like shortness of breath, which often occurs at night and in the morning after getting up. Many patients also suffer from a dry, tickly cough and difficulty breathing out. Not infrequently, there are also noticeable breathing noises that sound like whistling or humming.
A dry cough with heavy mucus formation is also characteristic of bronchial asthma. Severe asthma attacks are also associated with impaired consciousness and restlessness. The lack of oxygen can cause the lips and nail beds to turn blue.
In the early stages the symptoms appear exclusively as attacks, in the intervals between the attacks the patients are symptom-free. However, as the disease progresses, many patients suffer from constant shortness of breath, even if the other symptoms only show up in spurts.
The early detection of bronchial asthma is very important. It is not uncommon for children to have initial asthma, for example in physical education, incorrectly interpreted as poor physical condition.
It takes several years for the disease to be treated properly. Asthma is a chronic disease of the respiratory system, with the exception of children.
With early detection and good medical treatment, most will be completely cured. However, asthma can recur in adulthood.
The lung function of adults who had asthma as a child is also usually restricted. With untreated asthma, the duration of the illness increases, the airways retain permanent damage and permanent symptoms can occur.
The symptoms of the disease may suddenly worsen. An asthma attack, a so-called status asthmaticus, is very dangerous and can be life-threatening. An emergency doctor must be called here. The status cannot be broken easily with medication and can last for 24 hours or more.
In the event of an asthma attack, the gas exchange in the lungs can fail and the patient cannot be adequately supplied with oxygen. A severe asthma attack is associated with severe shortness of breath. The small airways become narrowed and the air remains trapped in the lungs. As a result, acute overinflation of the lungs can also occur. The overinflation can recur at short intervals over the years.
The alveoli can be destroyed in the process. In severe cases, permanent overinflation of the lungs, known as pulmonary emphysema, can occur. The exchange of oxygen in the lungs is made more difficult and the body is undersupplied with oxygen. The affected person permanently suffers from shortness of breath and is dependent on an oxygen cylinder.
Bronchial asthma can also lead to permanent heart damage. Since changes take place in the lung tissue in bronchial asthma, the heart is stressed and chronic cardiac insufficiency (right heart failure) can develop. In severe cases, asthma can be fatal.
When should you go to the doctor?
Bronchial asthma can usually be treated with emergency medication such as asthma spray. If the complaints do not subside as a result, an ambulance service must be alerted.
Emergency medical help is required above all if the respiratory distress is accompanied by pronounced fear of suffocation and other symptoms such as reduced responsiveness or extreme exhaustion. Even less severe seizures should be treated medically. If breathing problems or severe coughing attacks occur again and again, a visit to your family doctor is recommended.
There may be a concomitant respiratory tract infection or you have to switch to another asthma medication. In general, asthma attacks that increase in intensity and length should be clarified by a doctor and treated if necessary. With infants and young children a bronchial asthma should immediately for signs at pediatrician are gone.
People with other respiratory diseases should discuss any unusual symptoms with their doctor. If a respiratory distress occurs for the first time, an emergency doctor must be called in any case. A doctor must then clarify the bronchial asthma and prescribe appropriate emergency medication.
Treatment & Therapy
The symptoms of bronchial asthma can be kept under control by means of therapies or preventive measures.
There are different approaches to therapy. In the event of an allergic reaction, the triggering substance should be avoided. This can ultimately lead to a change of occupation if one has to do with allergy-causing substances at work. Continuous intake of the prescribed medication is just as important as carrying the asthma spray with you at all times.
You should also refrain from smoking. Passive smoking is just as harmful as active smoking. Moderate physical activity is also important.
The goals of the therapy consist of freedom from seizures, the normalization of lung function, normal physical and psychological development in children and the avoidance of restrictions in personal life. There are several therapeutic options for this.
Medicinal therapies, for example, suppress inflammation and thus avoid bronchial hypersensitivity. Inhaling certain medications is particularly helpful here. As a rule, a treatment plan is also drawn up in cooperation between the doctor and the patient. Patients must also be trained so that they know how to deal with their chronic illness.
The correct breathing technique is also trained here, for example. Often it is also necessary for allergic asthma to renovate the entire apartment so that contact with mold, animal hair, etc. can be avoided. If the treatment strategies are followed exactly, bronchial asthma is likely to heal, especially in children.
A well-known active ingredient that can be administered for asthma and chronic bronchitis is salbutamol. Salbutamol is a bronchospasmolytic which, when administered by inhalation, induces a rapid onset and “long-acting” (duration of action approx. 3 – 4 h) relaxation of the bronchi.
Outlook & forecast
The prognosis for bronchial asthma is based on three factors: when the disease was diagnosed, the severity of the condition, and the treatment.
In up to 50 percent of cases, diagnosed asthma in children is linked to the prognosis that it will disappear again during puberty. However, the disease can reappear in later years. It applies here that the severity of childhood asthma correlates directly with a possible recurrence or worsening of the disease with increasing age. Nevertheless, it should be noted that bronchial asthma is chronic in any case and basically persists even with good treatment.
Lung function is permanently restricted in adults who were asthmatic as a child, which means that they have to take care of themselves and often also require treatment. However, good treatment equates to normal life expectancy.
Further diseases in the lung area – especially infections – can lead to severe courses. If left untreated, there is a risk of serious damage to the respiratory system. There is still a death rate of a few people per 100,000 due to untreated asthma attacks, which mainly affect severe asthmatics. Often these are due to inadequate treatment.
Consistent adherence to a treatment strategy extends the seizure-free periods for those affected and improves the quality of life. Good medical care is crucial.
Regular follow-up examinations are essential for asthma patients as it is usually a chronic condition. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, an individual therapy plan is set out to help reduce asthmatic symptoms in the long term. Long-term medications that work against inflammation of the bronchi, for example, are also of great importance here and must be taken regularly.
Sport in particular is an effective remedy for breathing problems, as the body is more resilient and the lung volume is trained. A so-called DMP (Disease Management Program), which should be carried out once a quarter in a doctor’s office, provides information about the condition of the lungs and bronchi. Furthermore, it is possible to go to new asthma training courses in order to be informed about everything worth knowing about asthma and how to permanently deal with this disease.
If the patient has been symptom-free for years, he can slowly stop taking the medication to see how this affects the course of the disease. Under certain circumstances, he can even do without them completely. Nonetheless, sufferers should always carry an emergency spray with them in the event of an unexpected seizure.
You can do that yourself
The bronchial asthma disease can significantly impair the quality of life of those affected. If the asthma attacks come unexpectedly, people can help themselves with a powder inhaler or metered dose inhaler. With the help of the aids, better breathability can be guaranteed within a short period of time.
Since stress and internal tension also have an influence on the symptoms of asthma, mindfulness and relaxation exercises can provide relief. Some forms of yoga also encourage more even breathing. A helpful device for self-help is the respiratory therapy device, which can loosen and remove the mucus in the bronchi. The integration of light sports units into everyday life can also alleviate the symptoms.
Anyone who comes into contact with asthma patients should avoid smoking in their vicinity. Asthmatics themselves should definitely quit smoking. Those who stay in rooms with dry air irritate their bronchi. Asthmatics should therefore always ensure that there is sufficient humidity in the rooms – the best is a humidity of 50 to 60 percent.
Those who keep a diary about their asthma illness have a good overview of the course of the illness and can also pass on precise information to doctors. Those affected can also visit an asthma self-help group to exchange ideas with like-minded people about the disease and receive tips.