Short answer: Asthma is a lung disorder characterised by narrowing, inflammation and constriction of the airways (the tubes which carry air into the lungs) causing shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing.
Asthma is a chronic or long-term lung condition affecting the airways that transport air into our lungs. At the moment there is no cure, but it can be managed.
People suffering from this condition have sensitive airways. These airways become inflamed (also known as a flare-up) when they are exposed to triggers. When the airways become inflamed, the narrowing airways cause significant, persistent, and troublesome symptoms. This often causes breathing difficulties, as it is equivalent to breathing through a very thin tube and may lead to a medical emergency.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms often vary from person to person. The most common symptoms are:
· Persistent cough – productive or unproductive
· Wheezing – high pitch whistling sound made by narrowing of airways.
· Breathing difficulties – sometimes the sign of airways tightening do not result in any sounds we are familiar with such as wheezing and coughing (silent asthma).
· Tightening of chest or chest pain
If you have any of the above symptoms it is recommended to see your doctor for further investigation.
Who gets asthma?
Over 2.5 million (about 1 in 9) Australians have asthma, including children and adults. Asthma is more common in families with asthma or allergies, but not everyone with asthma has allergies. Asthma is common in children but can also start later.
Adults of any age can develop asthma, even if they did not have asthma as a child.
Common triggers of Asthma may include:
· Allergens such as pollen, dust, food items and mould (allergic asthma)
· Smoke from cigarettes, bushfires and traffic pollution.
· Other irritants such as cleaning products, perfumes, aerosol products and certain workplace chemicals
· Physical activity (referred to as exercise-induced asthma)
· Viral infections
Asthma triggers can cause your airways to narrow and lead to asthma symptoms. These triggers vary from person to person but avoiding or managing them can help to control asthma.
Can asthma be prevented?
If you are a sufferer, asthma might not be entirely preventable, but there are some practical ways to reduce the risk of an asthma attack and live well with asthma.
· Get vaccinated for Influenza – colds and flu viruses are common triggers
· Manage any allergies – asthma and allergies are closely linked
· Live smoke-free – if you are a smoker, QUIT, and avoid any second-hand smoke
· Eat well – a balanced diet helps you maintain a healthy weight. Being above a healthy weight range can make asthma harder to manage.
· Care for yourself – mental health issues and asthma are linked.
· See your doctor regularly – asthma needs to be regularly assessed and managed. Ensure your asthma action plan is up to date by checking in with your doctor.
Here at WLC Medical we can help put you on the right track with some preventative measures. Our Dietitian can help you with maintaining a balanced diet and our Physiotherapist can assist with an exercise program, while our Psychologist can help with any mental health concerns acting as potential barriers relating to your weight and exercise regime. Nurse Practitioner Julie McLean of Perth Paediatric and Family Clinic (consulting within our building) can also assist in both child and adult asthma management.