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Asthma

medical illustration showing the causes of asthma

There are several ways to treat asthma including anti-inflammatory drugs; brochodilators; nebulizers; and inhalers.

Asthma is a chronic condition that affects men, women, and children. It causes swelling and constricts the airways needed for breathing. Patients with the condition struggle to breathe. The inflammatory process of the disease causes narrowing of the air passages required to bring oxygen to the lungs. Shortness of breath and pain frustrate and frighten patients and families as they deal with the condition. Johns Creek Dermatology and Family Medicine offers family-focused health care for patients and families.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about twenty-two million people and six million children in the United States suffer with this illness. There is no cure for asthma but control is possible with medical management. If left untreated, the disease can significantly affect the patient’s health and quality of life.

Families

Mayo Clinic researchers report that science doesn’t understand why some people get the disease and others don’t. The process of how people seem to contract asthma and what happens when the patient experiences an attack is well known.

This chronic condition appears to run in families. Families may benefit from the services of a family medicine practice. The family practitioner (FP) takes an extensive family medical history in order to help all members of the family to understand more about how to manage or avoid symptoms. Johns Creek Dermatology and Family Medicine knows that an accurate family history is one of the best ways to identify diseases likely to affect patients’ health.

An individual has a six percent chance of developing the condition if neither parent has it. However, one parent with asthma increases the son or daughter’s chance by thirty percent. Both parents with the disease increase the chance by seventy percent or more!

Diagnosis

Asthma is typically diagnosed when three disease states are present:

  • The irritability of air tubes and brachial passages involves persistent over-reaction and resulting narrowing of these tissues.
  • Inflammation also causes the asthmatic patient to suffer from red and swollen brochial passages. Over time, the inflammatory process can cause permanent damage to the patient’s lungs.
  • Finally, obstruction to the air passages occurs. Surrounding muscle bands cause an even greater sense of constriction when trying to take a breath.

Triggers

Triggers of an attack may include cold air, exercise, allergens (dust, perfumes, pollen, animal dander, or fumes) inhaled by the patient, but some patients may experience an attack without a known trigger. Different patients with the same type of asthma may have different disease triggers. Some patients experience seasonal asthma. Others have a short attack of just an hour or two and others must deal with the daily attacks.

Physicians classify the condition based upon attack frequency and the findings of pulmonary tests. If the patient has two or less attacks each week, he or she has intermittent asthma. Two or more attacks are considered a mild form of the disease. Daily or more frequent attacks are considered the most severe form.

Obesity

Obese people (thirty percent or higher body mass index) have a higher likelihood of developing the disease, according to the Harvard School of Public Health’s Physiology Program. Very overweight and obese individuals may have difficulty in properly expanding their lungs, and this problem could narrow the individuals’ air passages over time. Obesity is also thought to cause inflammation throughout the body, including “systemic inflammation” of the bronchial passages. These findings may explain why obese individuals experience asthma more frequently than slimmer individuals.

Modern family medicine can help patients and members of the family with asthma to live better lives. Because this is a serious chronic condition, it is essential for those with asthma to seek treatment and learn how to manage or avoid attacks. Learning to lessen or minimize the impact of an attack from the family practitioner is also very important because permanent damage to the bronchial passages or lungs can occur over time. Lifestyle changes, including diet, nutrition, and stress reduction, can help some patients to manage this disease.

Symptoms

Different patients report various symptoms with asthma. Some of the most often seen symptoms include coughing (especially at night), chest pain or pressure, shortness of breath or chest tightness, and wheezing. Because symptoms may worsen during the night, patients often report difficulty sleeping or insomnia. Resulting fatigue or exhaustion may occur, making daily activities difficult or impossible for some asthmatics.

Types

Patients may suffer from different kinds of asthma, including:

  • Exercise-induced asthma, which occurs when the patient performs physical exercise or exertion;
  • Nighttime asthma, believed to be influenced by the sleep to wake cycle;
  • Cough-type asthma, occurs when the patient suffers an attack of severe coughing. Cough is one of the main symptoms of this kind of asthma;
  • Allergic-asthma, occurs when the patient’s immune system releases large amounts of histamines as part of the allergic response.

Treatments

There are many ways to treat the condition and to control it, including anti-inflammatory drugs (steroids); brochodilators (used to open air passages); nebulizers (machines to facilitate breathing); and inhalers (carried device used to deliver medication into the air passages).

Conclusion

Asthma is a chronic condition that can affect patients in any stage of life. Patients shouldn’t suffer with uncertainty about the disease. Diagnosis and treatment are necessary to protect the patient’s body over time. Prescribed asthma medications can dramatically improve how the patient experiences life.

Existing ad new patients with concerns about asthma in South Forsyth County, Gwinett County, North Fulton County, North Atlanta, Alpharetta, Cumming, Johns Creek, Dawsonville, Duluth, Suwanee, Roswell and surrounding areas should contact Johns Creek Dermatology and Family Medicine today at 770-771-6591.