Someone once said that having an Asthma attack is like being a Goldfish out of water, you can do all the mechanical things to breath like taking in large gulps of air, snatching breath or just breathing very deeply, in fact you are doing those things very actively, but the person suffering an Asthma attack (the state that describes the worst Asthmatic conditions) just cannot get air into his or her lungs and they feel as though they are drowning in air.
So what is Asthma? Simply put Asthma is a condition of varying severity that affects the airways in the body. The ‘airways’ of the body are the small and very small tubes that enable air to pass into and out of the lungs.
The reason why the airways are affected is not particularly well understood in the medical profession but the mechanics are reasonably well understood and it is understood that when someone who suffers from Asthma encounters an “Asthma trigger” the airways react to whatever the Asthma trigger is. This contact them begins a chain reaction, the irritated airways cause the muscles that surround the walls of airways tighten.
When the muscles that surround the airways tighten the airways become very narrow or in some cases close altogether. As they muscles press into the airways they react and the lining of the airways becomes inflamed and starts to swell up. Often a Phlegm or sticky Mucus will begin to build up in the airways, which in turn causes them to narrow even more.
The person suffering from the Asthma attack will be in considerable pain, be wheezing and fighting for breath and movement will become more and more difficult as the level of air in the body and in turn life sustaining Oxygen drops, first in the Lungs, then the blood and then to other major organs and the Brain the patient’s condition deteriorates significantly.
In extreme cases if the Asthma attack proceeds untreated the patient will die, it takes up to an hour for this to occur, but Asthma attacks can last for several hours without being fatal.
Around the world there are over 200 million diagnosed Asthma sufferers and it is thought ten times that number of undiagnosed sufferers, 20% of all sufferers are children.
The most common Asthmatic symptoms are; tightness in the area of the chest, coughing, distressed breathing, shortness of breath, wheezing, these symptoms are general and people who have Asthma may exhibit all of them at the same time or just one, shortness of breath in severe Asthma sufferers is the most common symptom.
What causes Asthma? It is easy to ask why something happens but to actually identify what is the cause of something as general as Asthma is almost impossible. There is evidence to suggest that pollution from cars, airplanes and modern life is a common Asthma trigger.
Studies have suggested that Asthma is also hereditary; families with a history of Eczema or Allergies are more likely to have Asthma.
There are also the usual suspects, smoking during pregnancy, smoking in general, viral infections and just modern life, food additives, agricultural practices and so on.