What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic lung disease caused by triggering factors such as cigarette smoke, exposure to cold temperatures that result in the contraction of airways (bronchia) and progresses with attacks of shortness of breath.

These attacks can also be accompanied by shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing and chest tightness. They usually occur in the early hours of the morning and can also be triggered by heavy exercising or emotional stress. They regress when the patient is treated. In regularly treated patients, severity and frequency of the attacks decrease over time.

What is the prevalence of Asthma?

Asthma affects approximately 300 million people worldwide. The number for our country is about 3,5 million. Every year 250.000 people in the world dies due to asthma related complications. Although the prevalence may vary from one country to another, it is believed to be 15% of the general population. In other words, 15 people out of 100 have asthma. Asthma risk is greater in areas with higher air pollution levels.  

What are the risk factors for Asthma?

Asthma is the result of many genetic and environmental factors.

Genetic factors include: predisposition to allergy, obesity and gender with females being under higher risk.

Environmental factors are:

  • Exposure to allergens, dust, chemical substances, cigarette smoke and air pollution
  • Viral upper respiratory infections, certain medications, gastroesophageal reflux.
  • Dust mites, pet hair (cats, dogs), cockroaches, fungi and pollens.
  • Perfumes, detergents and food smells can also be triggering.

How is Asthma diagnosed?

Asthma is characterized by attacks. During the attack, the patient suffers from shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, wheezing, coughing and dark phlegm. While it is easy to diagnose a patient during an attack, for other times it is important to obtain a detailed patient history, chest x-ray, respiration function tests, allergy and blood tests. 

How is Asthma treated?

Asthma does not affect life quality significantly for patients who are regularly treated. However irregular care causes the illness to progress and the attacks to become severe.

Asthma medication are mainly administered through the respiratory tract and consist of two categories.

First category includes inhalers that comfort the patient and fight symptoms when they are suffering from an attack. Their onset of action is 1-2 minutes and reduce shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing.

Second category includes medications that treat the disease for a long period of time and take it under control. They are also usually administered through the respiratory tract. When these medications are regularly used, they have a direct impact on the course of the disease and the patients' life quality by lowering the frequency and severity of the attacks. 

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