May 5th 2009 World Asthma Day
, celebrated on the first Tuesday of May every year, offers an opportunity to step-up awareness about management of a chronic condition that affects nearly 300 million people worldwide. Most often, asthma's victims impose unwarranted restrictions on themselves and build mental barriers that limit them from realizing their dreams. "You Can Control Your Asthma
", the theme for this year, is a message to all victims to fight asthma with proper management, which is the key to leading a fulfilling life.
Several activities have been planned all over the world to promote awareness about Asthma. Sports activities, talks, and campaigns dedicated to Asthma have already begun with the motive to increase awareness. Since the condition has no cure, the initiatives call for concerted action from the government to step-up research in order to find a cure.
What is Asthma?
Inflammation of the inner walls of the airways causes asthma. What causes the airways to inflame? Though we do not have absolute clarity about this yet, research has shown that early exposure to allergens, tobacco smoke, and pollution in the environment increases the chances of asthma attacks in later life. There is a genetic predisposition to Asthma as well.
Inflammation of the airways makes it sensitive to allergens in the environment, which in turn constrict the air passage. This causes reduced airflow to the lung tissue, which could manifest as breathing difficulty, coughing, or tightness in the chest. Some patients also experience wheezing.
Asthma attacks may be mild among some victims, while some others experience severe attacks. In some cases, Asthma has also been life threatening. Therefore, it is imperative to seek the advice of a medical specialist for the proper management of Asthma and the ways to deal with any emergency.
Understanding The Causes & Symptoms
Triggers in the environment in the form of allergens can cause asthma. For some, viral infections can give rise to the condition. Some victims sense an impending attack after any form of physical activity, commonly termed as Exercise Induced Asthma.
Broadly, asthma triggers can be the following:
• Cockroaches, dust mites
• Animal dander
• Pollen from trees and grass
• Air pollution
• Tobacco smoke
• Weather changes
• Cold air
• Strong smells
• Strong emotions for instance laughing bouts or even crying
• Viral infections
These triggers can manifest as an asthma attack, which could cause the victim to cough, or wheeze, experience chest tightness and shortness of breath. The symptoms can differ with each attack, ranging from mild to very severe and in some cases, also fatal.
The central goal of any asthma treatment plan is to help control the condition.
Medical specialists are equipped to evaluate the condition and work the treatment plan which would employ the use of medicines prescribed for quick relief as well as long-term medication, to keep a check on the symptoms.
Quick-relief medicines (bronchodilators) are advised during the initial signs of asthma symptoms to aid instant relief. These medicines are inhaled directly into the lungs causing the airways to open up, restoring the normal flow of air into the lungs.
Long-term medicines could also be prescribed for chronic asthma sufferers. Inhaled corticosteroids are employed to reduce the swelling in the airways, which alleviates asthma.
The ultimate objective of managing asthma is to use the least amount of medicines to achieve control over the condition.
Discipline - Key to Asthma Management
Controlling asthma means living by a set of rules, which includes regular medical checkups to evaluate the condition. This also necessitates that prescribed medicines be taken correctly.
Additionally, it is imperative to understand your asthma triggers and limit exposure to them. This will bring down the incidences of the condition.
Parents of children suffering asthma need to be watchful for symptoms. Expecting mothers need to control the condition wisely, as falling oxygen levels in the blood could cause life-altering abnormalities in the growing fetus. The good news is that most asthma medications are safe for pregnant women.
Further, asthma sufferers need not be wary of sports or physical activity. Those with exercise-induced asthma can use quick action medicines like the inhaler, which works wonders.
For the multitude of sufferers in the world, the day sends across an important message that 'Asthma is manageable'. With effective management, it is possible to look beyond the disease and savor every moment of life. Sky is the only limit!