Uploaded by mumsa1 on Apr 10, 2012
Asthma affects more than 6 million people in the UK.
In this article:
What is asthma?
Effect on your life
Advice & Support
What is asthma?
Asthma is a condition which affects the lungs and makes breathing extremely difficult whenever the onset of an asthma ‘attack’ occurs. The lungs become inflamed causing a kind of narrowing of the airways. This makes breathing more restricted and therefore uncomfortable.
With symptoms ranging from mild to severe, asthma generally starts in childhood and then becomes progressively worse as you reach adulthood. In fact, 1 in 20 adults in the UK suffer from asthma, with each person only able to cope with their condition as best they can through a specifically tailored treatment plan for them (as asthma cannot be cured).
Symptoms of asthma can include:
Breathlessness and general breathing problems (these are usually at their worst in the night)
A feeling of tightness in the chest
Wheezing and coughing
Agitation and/or restlessness
Symptoms of asthma can last for anything between an hour and a period of weeks – with asthma attacks varying in length and severity from one person to another.
The precise cause of asthma is as yet unknown. However, a range of triggers that have been suggested and identified as possibly causing the onset of asthma symptoms include:
Allergies (e.g., pollen, moulds, house dust mites, and furry pets)
Chemicals and fumes (e.g., from solvents)
Infections (e.g., colds, cough, flu, chest infections…)
Certain medications (e.g., aspirin and beta-blockers)
Emotional upset (e.g., stress and/or anxiety)
Sometimes the symptoms of asthma can flare up during exercise, or for no apparent reason.
Also, you may have a genetic predisposition to having asthma. That is, the propensity to developing the condition is already in the family and has been passed down to you from another generation.
If you are suffering from the aforementioned symptoms and think that you may have asthma, arrange an appointment with your GP. After taking your medical history, they will ask you some questions about your symptoms (such as how often they occur and when) and then perhaps listen to your chest with a stethoscope to assess your breathing.
If they suspect that you may have asthma, they will examine your breathing in a more in-depth way using something called a PEFR test (peak expiratory flow rate). This is a handheld device which has been specially designed to take a reading of your breathing pattern and behaviour. If there is any doubt at this stage as to whether you are asthmatic,...