Most of the symptoms of asthma involve the respiratory system and symptoms depend mainly on the severity of the condition. Some of the symptoms of asthma are:
Cough: The cough from asthma is so distressing that one find it difficult to sleep. It usually worsens late at night and early in the morning.
Wheezing: Wheezing manifests itself as squeaky or a whistling sound while breathing.
Chest tightness: The patient feels as if something is sitting on the chest and squeezing.
Shortness of breath: Most people find it very difficult to breathe. They feel as if they cannot breathe out.
Symptoms may vary depending on the severity of the condition and if left untreated can even turn fatal. Treatment given at the first onset of symptoms can leave the patient symptomless during the day and night.
Though not life threatening, asthmatic attacks can affect the regular activities in school and at work and may require frequent hospitalizations. Moreover, it can result in permanent narrowing of the airway. Using long term medications have their own side effects too . Normal asthmatic attacks if not taken proper care can turn out to be life threatening condition called the status asthmaticus that may require hospitalization.
Entire Body System
- Congestive Heart Failure
Then, there are other medical conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure and heart disease that can coexist with asthma and complicate diagnosis and treatment. [khn.org]
heart failure vocal cord dysfunction viral lower respiratory tract infection A doctor may test for these using the following methods: a chest x-ray electrocardiogram (ECG) complete blood counts CT scans of the lungs gastroesophageal reflux assessment [medicalnewstoday.com]
[…] arrhythmia, cancer, congestive heart failure, cerebrovascular disease and COPD. [dx.doi.org]
A meta-analysis by DiMatteo et al [ 50 ] revealed that patients with a chronic disease and depression were three times more likely to be noncompliant with medical treatment than non-depressed patients. [doi.org]
Depression is a risk factor for noncompliance with medical treatment: meta analysis of the effects of anxiety and depression on patient adherence. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Although the wheezing symptoms disappeared after systemic corticosteroid therapy, the exertional dyspnea and hypoxemia did not improve. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
People who have COPD and continue to smoke, have a rapid decline in FEV1, who develop severe hypoxemia, develop right-sided heart failure and/or have poor ability to do daily functions usually have a poor prognosis. [medicinenet.com]
Wheezing may be absent (associated with most severe airway obstruction), and severe hypoxemia may manifest as bradycardia. Pulsus paradoxus noted earlier may be absent; this finding suggests respiratory muscle fatigue. [emedicine.medscape.com]
Under these conditions, hypoxemia worsens and PaCO2 rises. Respiratory acidosis and metabolic acidosis may result and, if left untreated, cause respiratory and cardiac arrest. [merckmanuals.com]
- Nocturnal Awakening
However, these differences were also associated with superiority with regard to some relevant clinical outcomes (e.g., number of exacerbations or nocturnal awakenings), a finding that suggests that they are clinically relevant. [dx.doi.org]
Only one comparison reported data on change in nocturnal awakening ( Analysis 2.11 ) and quality of life ( Analysis 2.12 ), preventing aggregation. [doi.org]
Control of triggers Drug therapy Monitoring Patient education Treatment of acute exacerbations Treatment objectives are to minimize impairment and risk, including preventing exacerbations and minimizing chronic symptoms, including nocturnal awakenings [merckmanuals.com]
- Recurrent Bronchitis
Most children with chronic or recurrent bronchitis have asthma. Asthma is also the most common underlying diagnosis in children with recurrent pneumonia; older children may have a history of chest tightness and/or recurrent chest congestion. [emedicine.medscape.com]
Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, and rapid breathing. An attack may be brought on by pet hair, dust, smoke, pollen, mold, exercise, cold air, or stress. [icd9data.com]
Common asthma symptoms include: Coughing, especially at night Wheezing Shortness of breath Chest tightness, pain, or pressure Read Article [webmd.com]
[…] asth·ma | \ ˈaz-mə, British ˈas- \ : a chronic lung disorder that is marked by recurring episodes of airway obstruction (as from bronchospasm) manifested by labored breathing accompanied especially by wheezing and coughing and by a sense of constriction [merriam-webster.com]
Children with asthma may show the same symptoms as adults with asthma: coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. In some children chronic cough may be the only symptom. [aaaai.org]
A 33 year old female healthcare worker with a history of cough variant asthma presented with 2 weeks of dyspnea and cough that she believed to be due to recurring exposure to skunk spray in her work environment. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
pneumoniae may be involved in the pathogenesis of chronic stable asthma: serological studies suggest a dose response between C pneumoniae antibody levels and the severity of asthma 6 and reactivation of C pneumoniae infection during acute asthma. 7 Further [dx.doi.org]
A 10-year-old schoolgirl was hospitalized with asthma exacerbation and acute pneumonia. Chest radiographs showed a diffuse opacity of the left lung and hyperpermeability of the right lung. Computed tomography indicated foreign-body aspiration. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Citing Literature Number of times cited according to CrossRef: 2 Homa Alizadeh, Naghmeh Bahrami, Farzaneh Hosseini and Abdolreza Mohamadnia, Molecular detection of Chlamydia Pneumoniae in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases with both [doi.org]
It is characterized by spasmodic contraction of airway smooth muscle, wheezing, and dyspnea (dyspnea, paroxysmal). Asthma is a chronic disease that affects your airways. Your airways are tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. [icd9data.com]
A 62-year-old man with asthma presented with a 1-month history of wheezing and exertional dyspnea. Although the wheezing symptoms disappeared after systemic corticosteroid therapy, the exertional dyspnea and hypoxemia did not improve. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
- Common Cold
The individual episodes are frequently triggered by viral respiratory infections (causes of the common cold). [uichildrens.org]
Asthma triggers are different from person to person and can include: Airborne substances, such as pollen, dust mites, mold spores, pet dander or particles of cockroach waste Respiratory infections, such as the common cold Physical activity (exercise-induced [mayoclinic.org]
The promising results of EIB and common cold studies indicate that further research on vitamin C and the respiratory symptoms of physically active people are warranted. [doi.org]
These include influenza (flu), the common cold, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and sinus infections. Strong emotional states. [everydayhealth.com]
Psychological stress in humans and susceptibility to the common cold. New England Journal of Medicine. 1991; 325 :606–612. [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ] Dickerson SS, Kemeny ME. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
- Respiratory Distress
Neurologists encounter a diagnostic challenge if patients without a history of bronchial asthma develop neurologic features mimicking HS following acute respiratory distress. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Founded in 1905 to combat TB, the ATS has grown to tackle asthma, COPD, lung cancer, sepsis, acute respiratory distress, and sleep apnea, among other diseases. [thoracic.org]
Progressive or more serious symptoms may include respiratory distress, tachypnea, cyanosis, use of accessory respiratory muscles, peripheral edema, hyperinflation, chronic wheezing, abnormal lung sounds, prolonged expiration, elevated jugular venous pulse [medicinenet.com]
Jaw & Teeth
- Chest Pain
Abstract Precordial catch syndrome is a benign cause of chest pain in children and adolescents that remains underrecognized. Because of distinctive symptoms, precordial catch syndrome is not necessarily a diagnosis of exclusion. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
The tachycardia, hypertension, and neurological symptoms improved. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Density Of Bone Extra Heartbeats Hallucinations Hives Inflammation Of The Skin Due To An Allergy Low Blood Pressure Megaloblastic Anemia Memory Loss Mental Problems Mental Problems From Taking The Drug Paradoxical Bronchospasm Rickets Seizures Sinus Tachycardia [webmd.com]
However, the wide confidence interval (including the upper limit) for some adverse events was high for tachycardia, palpitations, tremor and death, indicating uncertainty. [doi.org]
Extrathoracic respiratory signs should also be systematically looked for, including cyanosis, finger deformation, pulsus paradoxus, and pursed lips breathing. [erj.ersjournals.com]
Rescue inhalers can help you: otc inhalers Seek medical help immediately for: Fast breathing with chest retractions (skin sucks in between or around the chest plate and/or rib bones when inhaling) Cyanosis (very pale or blue coloring in the face, lips [aafa.org]
[…] emergency medical help (911 in the United States) if your child has any of these warning signs: Trouble breathing, which may include loud wheezing, fast breathing, or gasping Skin that is sweaty and pale Blue lips or fingers from low oxygen in the blood (cyanosis [merckmanuals.com]
- Pulsus Paradoxus
Severe airflow obstruction may be predicted by accessory muscle use, pulsus paradoxus, refusal to recline below 30°, a pulse >120 beats/min, and decreased breath sounds. Physicians' subjective assessments of airway obstruction are often inaccurate. [doi.org]
Extrathoracic respiratory signs should also be systematically looked for, including cyanosis, finger deformation, pulsus paradoxus, and pursed lips breathing. [erj.ersjournals.com]
Loud expiratory wheezing can be heard, and pulsus paradoxus may be present (10-20 mm Hg). Oxyhemoglobin saturation with room air is 91-95%. [emedicine.medscape.com]
paradoxus >25 mmHg Absence (muscle fatigue) Use of accessory muscles Evident Abdominal paradox Wheeze Present – loud 'Silent chest' Functional assessment PEF PaO 2 PaCO 2 >42 mmHg SaO 2 Pulsus paradoxus can be a valuable sign of asthma severity but its [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Patients with a severe exacerbation and impending respiratory failure typically have some combination of altered consciousness, cyanosis, pulsus paradoxus > 15 mm Hg, oxygen saturation <90%, PaCO2 > 45 mm Hg, or hyperinflation. [merckmanuals.com]
- Retrosternal Chest Pain
A 72-year-old woman with asthma attack and retrosternal chest pain was presented to our emergency unit. She had used albuterol spray ten-times before admission due to accentuated dyspnea. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
- Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety disorders -- Sleep disorders -- Schizophrenia -- Mood disorders I : major depressive disorders -- Mood disorders II : bipolar disorder -- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children, adolescents, and adults -- Eating disorders -- [worldcat.org]
What is worse for asthma control and quality of life: depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, or both?. Chest 2006 ; 130 : 1039 –1047. ↵ Heaney LG, Conway E, Kelly C, Gamble J. [doi.org]
Are you an adult who has asthma and insomnia? This study is looking at whether two different education-based interventions can help improve the quality of life for patients who have severe asthma and insomnia. [nhlbi.nih.gov]
There were no differences in the frequency of specific adverse events including nausea and vomiting, pain, swelling, redness, insomnia, or personality changes. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
It is important to note that sleep disturbance or insomnia is sometimes a side effect of asthma medication. Be sure to discuss any sleep problems that you or your child might be experiencing with your doctor. [sleepfoundation.org]
The side effects of caffeine are similar to those of theophylline (tachycardia, palpitation, nausea and other gastrointestinal disturbances, headache, central nervous system stimulation, insomnia). [doi.org]
A 34-year-old female nurse rapidly developed shortness of breath, cough, and agitation after denatonium benzoate fit testing. She had a history of allergy to shrimp, crab, mite, and disinfecting products (containing quaternary ammonium). [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in rare cases, the drug has been linked to depression, suicidal thinking, aggression, agitation, and hallucinations. Keep your doctor aware of any psychological symptoms you or your child are experiencing. [healthline.com]
Type Of Fast Heart Rate Skin Rash With Sloughing Slow And Shallow Breathing Slow Heartbeat Trouble Breathing Very Low Levels Of Granulocytes, A Type Of White Blood Cell Wheezing Abnormal Nervous System Function Affecting Alertness Addiction To A Drug Agitation [webmd.com]
Severe episodes In a severe episode, patients are breathless during rest, are not interested in eating, sit upright, talk in words rather than sentences, and are usually agitated. [emedicine.medscape.com]
In rare cases, these medications have been linked to psychological reactions, such as agitation, aggression, hallucinations, depression and suicidal thinking. Seek medical advice right away for any unusual reaction. Long-acting beta agonists. [mayoclinic.org]
Drugs & MedicationsAzma-Aid Tablet Azma-Aid Tablet Side Effects by Likelihood and Severity COMMON side effects Difficulty Sleeping Dizziness Drowsiness Nausea Nervousness INFREQUENT side effects Confusion Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Low Energy And [webmd.com]
Keep an eye out for side effects of medications or other signs of allergies, which might make asthma symptoms worse, including a very dry mouth, stuffy nose, dizziness, pains and a swollen tongue. [draxe.com]
There were no reports of dizziness, fatigue, or any other adverse symptoms. Devi 1997 reported the following adverse effects in the treatment group: epigastric warmth (12.5%), pain (16.6%), and tingling and numbness (12.5%) at the site of infusion. [doi.org]
With advanced hypercarbia, bradypnea, somnolence, and profuse diaphoresis may be present; almost no breath sounds may be heard; and the patient is willing to lie recumbent. [emedicine.medscape.com]
[…] child exhales • Shortness of breath or rapid breathing, which may be associated with exercise • Chest tightness (a young child may say that his chest “hurts” or “feels funny”) • Fatigue (your child may slow down or stop playing) • Problems feeding or grunting [aaaai.org]
The diagnosis of asthma is usually done by assessing the patient’s condition, by doing a complete physical examination, undertaking a thorough medical history and by doing lung function tests.
Obstruction of the airflow is assessed and proper examination is done, if the obstruction is at least partially reversible .
Wheezing is assessed using a stethoscope and the obstruction is considered reversible if the wheeze disappears with treatment or if the triggering factor is resolved. Various physiological tests are done to assess lung function. Some of them are:
- Peak flow meter
- Bronchial provocation
Apart, from these various other tests are done to exclude other possible diseases. Some of such tests are, X-ray of the chest and sinuses, testing for allergies and evaluation for gastroesophageal reflux diseases . These can act as triggering factors and can worsen the asthmatic condition and hence assessment of possibilities for such worsening conditions is absolutely crucial.
Complications There are several conditions that can complicate asthma; they include 1,6,16 : atelectasis pneumonia mucoid impaction of the airways pneumothorax pneumomediastinum and related subcutaneous emphysema eosinophilic lung disease allergic bronchopulmonary [radiopaedia.org]
Mucus plugging and atelectasis are not rare and usually respond to effective treatment. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
This causes portions of the lung to appear more dense and cast more of a shadow on a chest x-ray (this is called atelectasis). The rattling sounds or increased shadows on the x-ray are often misinterpreted as indicating pneumonia. [uichildrens.org]
The consequent alveolar recruitment increases functional residual capacity and counteracts the development of atelectasis ( Pavone 2013 ). [doi.org]
The chest x-ray in asthma is usually normal but may show hyperinflation or segmental atelectasis, a sign of mucous plugging. [merckmanuals.com]
Pulmonary Function Test
- Reversible Airway Obstruction
Asthma is a relatively common condition that is characterized by at least partially reversible inflammation of the airways and reversible airway obstruction due to airway hyperreactivity. It can be acute, subacute or chronic. [radiopaedia.org]
Asthma is a complex clinical syndrome of chronic airway inflammation characterized by recurrent, reversible, airway obstruction. Airway inflammation also leads to airway hyperreactivity, which causes airways to narrow in response to various stimuli. [medicinenet.com]
The patient's FEV 1 increases to almost 700 ml with inhaled albuterol, indicating that she has substantial reversible airway obstruction. [doi.org]
Patients suspected of having asthma should undergo pulmonary function testing to confirm and quantify the severity and reversibility of airway obstruction. [merckmanuals.com]
Treatment involves keeping the symptoms under control by using proper medications. The breathing pattern should be tracked often to assess the efficacy of the medication. In case of occasional flare-ups, inhalers such as albuterol are used for symptomatic relief. The choice of various medications used in the treatment of asthma are based on the patient’s age, symptoms, triggers and effectiveness . Medications for asthma are of three categories.
Preventive, Long term medications
They reduce the inflammation of the airways leading to symptoms. Some of such medications are:
- Inhaled corticosteroids- E.g. Fluticasone, budesonide
- Leukotriene modifiers – e.g. Motelukast, zafirlukast
- Long acting beta agonist – e.g. Salmeterol, Formoterol
- Combination inhalers- e.g. Fluticasone- salmeterol, budesonide-Formoterol
Quick relief inhalers
They open up the swollen airway and hence ease breathing. Some of such medications are:
- Short acting beta agonists
- Oral and intravenous corticosteroids
Allergy medications such as antihistamines and decongestants if necessary .
Asthma is a chronic disease and prognosis usually depends on the severity of the disease. In some cases the disease can go into longer periods of remission. Generally in mild to moderate cases, the symptoms can improve over time and in some adults, they can even be disease free. Even when it comes to some severe cases, adults may find good improvement depending on the timeliness, the effectiveness of the treatment and the degree of lung obstruction.
Only in about 10% of the cases the condition is very severe and persistent and not responsive to treatment . There is an irreversible decline in lung function in such patients and there are also changes in the walls of the airways which are progressive.
Smoking exacerbates the condition and declination in lung function is much faster in people with asthma than normal individuals. Death as a result of asthmatic attacks is relatively rare and can be prevented by proper medications. Though this disease condition is not that debilitating, it can turn out to be a hindrance to day-to-day activities and work if not properly controlled.
The etiology for the occurrence of asthma has not yet been completely established. The link between the genetic and the environmental factors in the occurrence of asthma is still a subject of debate and studies are being carried on to establish the relationship of allergy to asthma. Exposure to infections and endotoxins in infancy or early childhood may act as risk factors depending on the timing of exposure.
Prenatal exposure to maternal smoking has been strongly associated with the incidence of asthma. Moreover, stress, diet, nutrition, mode of delivery and use of antibiotics are also associated with the occurrence of asthma. In later stages of life, exposure to allergens, gender, sex, family size and structure, occupational exposure to allergens are all considered to be predisposing factors to asthma.
Most of the cross-sectional studies that are population based are dependent mostly on recognizing the symptoms. There is a wide variation on documentation of prevalence of asthma.
Documented evidence suggests low prevalence rate of asthma in Asian countries like China and India. There is only a 2-4% of prevalence in these countries when compared to developed countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the prevalence of this disease is documented to be 15-20%.
The pathophysiology of asthma is a complex phenomena and the attack may be spontaneous or it may be triggered. Either way, the attack progresses as follows.
- Initially there is an activation of the inflammatory cells resulting in the release of inflammatory mediators from the epithelial cells, macrophages and the bronchial mast cells.
- There is an increased responsiveness in the airway smooth muscles as a result of alterations in the neural control of the muscle tone and disturbance in the epithelial integrity.
- This results in clinical manifestations such as dyspnea and wheezing.
The various factors that contribute for the clinical manifestations are, bronchospasms, edema and inflammation of the mucosa, thick mucus that contributes to airway obstruction, hyperinflation, impaired gas exchange and increased work on breathing . If the initial attack is not taken good care the condition may exacerbate into a more acute and severe form called the status asthmaticus which may require hospitalization.
Asthmatic attacks can be prevented by reducing the exposure to the triggers. For this the first step is to identify the triggers. Some of such triggers include air pollution, allergies, sinusitis, cold air, flu virus, smoke and fragrances. Maintaining a diary of conditions that can trigger an asthmatic attack can be helpful in managing the symptoms.
An IgE testing can also be done to identify substances that can sensitize and induce an asthmatic attack. For some people exercise may induce an asthmatic attack and such people should consult their physician before undergoing an exercise regimen .
If cold and flu can induce an asthmatic attack, avoiding situations that can cause a cold or flu such as a crowded place or exposure to cold air must be avoided to reduce the incidence of asthmatic attacks .
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease found worldwide. This disease affects the airways and is characterized by a reversible bronchospasm and airflow obstruction. It has been estimated that 24 million people are affected by this disease and being a common childhood disease, more than 7 million children are found to be victims of this disease.
The occurrence of asthma has increased over the recent years especially after the 1970s. Asthma has also been found to be a cause for around 250,000 deaths. The etiology for the occurrence of asthma is a bit complex and involves a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Asthma is a chronic illness that can be managed successfully with proper medications. Though an asthmatic attack turning to become fatal is rare, it can be debilitating at times affecting day-to-day life. Hence it is necessary to keep note on the triggering factors by maintaining a diary and avoiding them . Usage of proper medications prescribed by the physician are mandatory to avoid future asthmatic attacks and avoiding flare ups.
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2. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Global Strategy for Asthma Management and Prevention. NIH Publication; 2008.
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8. Kotses H, Bernstein IL, Bernstein DI, Reynolds RV, Korbee L, Wigal JK, et al. A self-management program for adult asthma. Part I: Development and evaluation. J Allergy Clin Immunol. Feb 1995;95(2):529-40.
9. From the Global Strategy for Asthma Management and Prevention, Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) 2010. Available at http://www.ginasthma.org.
10. Sears MR. Consequences of long-term inflammation. The natural history of asthma. Clin Chest Med. Jun 2000;21(2):315-29.