Asthma is a common condition characterised by episodic narrowing of the large airways and mucous production which can cause difficulty breathing. It is caused by a type 1 IgE mediated hypersensitivity reaction, in which exposure to particular allergens promotes an excessive immune response within the respiratory tract. If left untreated, the inflammation can lead to long-term changes to the airways which are more difficult to treat.
Asthma flare-ups can be treated with the use of beta-2 agonists, which promote relaxation of the smooth muscle surrounding the large airways and therefore make it easier to breathe. Inhaled steroids can also be provided to reduce the inflammatory response associated with the condition.
In some cases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is often mistaken for asthma, so care should be taken to make a correct diagnosis, as treatment for these two conditions is different. Asthma tends to be chronic, with episodic flare-ups triggered by particular allergens such as pollen or animal hair and symptoms are generally reversible with beta-agonist therapy.
Asthma is an important condition to be aware of as asthma attacks kill 3 people each day in the UK. Patients may not adequately self-monitor their condition or visit their GP or asthma specialist nurse for regular reviews, whilst others may fail to realise the severity of a flare-up until it is too late.
Please find a summary of the disease below.