Asthma is chronic inflammatory condition characterized by wheezing and breathlessness due to a hypersensitive immune system response to common allergens such as pollen, dust which irritate the windpipe and lung tissue causing constriction of the same leading to difficulty in breathing. Asthma is one of the most prevalent non-communicable diseases which affects about 393 million people across the globe. Asthma and related mortality accounts to about 400 thousand deaths each year, more frequently seen in middle and lower income countries according to the data provided by the World Health Organization(WHO).
Asthma is more commonly seen in children, and in most cases gets carried to their adulthood as well. There are also instances where an adult with no history of asthma in their childhood, developing asthma later doing their life.
What causes Asthma?
Asthma characterized by wheezing is merely a hypersensitive response of the body to allergens. It mostly runs in families, transferred from parent to offspring. There is no exact cause for asthma, it is an autoimmune disease.
The common risk factors or allergens which trigger the inflammatory response are as follows:
- Allergens such as dust, pollen
- Mites in bedding, carpets, stuffed toys
- Tobacco smoke
- Chemical irritants
- Air pollution/ poor air quality
- Sudden exposure to cold air
- Strenuous physical exercise
Signs and symptoms of asthma
Asthma presents as following:
- Shortness of breath
- Persistent Cough
- Tightness of chest
What is an Asthma attack?
Asthma attack is an episode of asthma which may last anywhere form few seconds to few minutes. During which the person need to use their inhalers with asthmatic medication for relief. If the attack continues even after using inhalers then hospital admission for it could be a life-threatening episode which may be brought about by the swelling and constriction airway cutting off respiration which needs to be immediately corrected. Most asthmatic attacks occur during the earlier part of the day.
Types of asthma
Asthma depending on the cause and onset can be of the following types :
- Childhood asthma : this is the most common type of asthma seen in children, it is mostly a hereditary condition and runs in families and progresses into their adult life as well.
- Occupational asthma : seen in industry workers especially those which include asbestos or other irritants which can cause asthma in adults who have had no childhood history of asthma.
- Exercise-induced asthma : this type of asthma is triggered intense and prolonged physical activity in outdoor spaces, especially during the cold season.
- Allergy – induced asthma : triggered by common allergens such as pollen, dusts, smoke
Is asthma treatable?
Yes. Asthma is a very well manageable condition. Patients are prescribed bronchodilators and steroids to help reduce the inflammation and swelling of the airway. These medications are prescribes as oral tablets or in inhalers.
The inhalers can be of:
Reliever inhalers: used during asthmatic episodes for immediate relief
Preventive inhalers: used more on a daily or a regular basis to prevent future asthmatic attacks
Can asthma go away?
With early diagnosis and treatment, asthma is controllable in most cases. In a few cases, kids who had asthma on growing up might have less severe attacks provided they take their medications regularly and decrease their exposure to known allergens.
There have been reports of children with asthma having decreased severity of symptoms such as cough, chest tightness and difficulty in breathing and in certain cases total elimination of these symptoms.
It mostly depends on the individual’s immune response and how regularly and consistently takes up their asthma medications for them to notice an improvement in their condition.
Although it might seem like the symptoms have gone for good, one can expect an asthmatic episode at any time whenever exposed to an allergen and immune system triggered. Hence, it is advisable to not let your guard down, and stay away from allergens and other trigger factors.
If the symptoms do wane off over time, the hypersensitive immune cells, inflammation, mucous secretions in the airway will still remain the same.
How do I know if I can outgrow asthma?
Well, scientifically one cannot point out who would and who would not outgrow or be relieved from asthma. Theoretically one cannot be “free of asthma” but rather develop period of remission.
Research at National Jewish Health found that only 6% of children followed for 9 years were considered in complete remission from asthma with no asthma activity.
Those who might most probably encounter asthmatic episodes despite medications are :
- Hereditary asthma patients
- Children having a diagnosis of eczema
- Food allergy or other allergic conditions
- Elevated eosinophil levels in the blood
Those who have an increased likelihood of periods of remission are as follows:
- Older the age at diagnosis
- Boys have been reported to have more incidences of period of remission
- Wheezing only during times of cold and mostly symptom-free
- Lower eosinophils levels
- Less sensitized immune system
- Absence of other allergic conditions
- Less exposure to allergens
Recently studies are in progress to identify parts of DNA to determine which patients are more likely to develop and have asthma for the rest of their lives, the severity and course of the disease through genetic testing. So in the near future, doctors might be able to predict which of the patients may have increased chances of periods of remission and those who don’t.
To conclude, can asthma go away? Maybe, maybe not and it entirely depends on the person’s course, duration and intensity of asthmatic attacks and their immune response, taking medications regularly and staying away from allergens.