by Dr. Thomas K. Lo
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that affects the bronchial tubes. Your bronchial tubes carry air into and out of your lungs. When you breathe, your lungs take in oxygen. The oxygen travels through your bloodstream to all parts of your body.
In people who have asthma, the lungs and walls of the bronchial tubes become inflamed and oversensitive. When people with asthma breathe in “asthma triggers,” such as smoke, air pollution, cold air, mold, or chemicals, the bronchial tubes tighten in response. This limits airflow and makes it difficult to breathe. Asthma triggers may be different for each person and may change over time.
Who Gets Asthma?
Before age 15, asthma affects more boys than girls. After age 15, asthma is more common among girls and women than among boys and men. Researchers believe the hormones estrogen and progesterone might affect women’s airways. Changing hormone levels throughout the menstrual cycle and during pregnancy and menopause may affect airways in women with asthma.
Some women are more at risk for asthma.
Asthma is more likely to affect Puerto Rican and African-American women than women of other racial and ethnic groups; also, women who live in cities, especially in low-income areas. Air pollution, indoor allergens (such as cockroaches), and tobacco smoke are more common in urban, low-income areas.
How Does Asthma Affect Women?
Women may experience more asthma symptoms than men. Women with asthma go to the hospital for asthma treatment more often and use more quick-relief or “rescue” medicines than men use.
Women with asthma report more trouble sleeping and have more anxiety than men with asthma have.
Women’s lungs are smaller than men’s lungs. This may make women more sensitive to asthma triggers and make it harder for women to breathe during an asthma attack.
What Are the Symptoms of Asthma?
Wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness are symptoms of asthma.
You may have only one or two of these symptoms, or you may have all of them. You may also get asthma symptoms only at night or in cold weather, or after exposure to allergens or other triggers when you have a cold or are exercising.
How is Asthma Diagnosed?
Asthma can be difficult to diagnose. The symptoms can be similar to those of other conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia, bronchitis, anxiety disorders, and heart disease. Your practitioner will ask what triggers your symptoms; they may also ask about your health history, do a physical exam, and ask about your daily habits. In addition, what types of allergens or irritants might be in your workplace or home.
Your practitioner may also do tests. Spirometry is a test, using a machine called a spirometer, that measures how much air you can breathe. It also measures how fast you can blow air out. Bronchoprovocation is when stress is put on your lungs while you are exercising or breathing, in increasing doses of a special chemical or cold air.
Your practitioner may want to also test for other problems that might be causing symptoms. These include sleep apnea, vocal cord problems, or stomach acid backing up into the throat.
How is Asthma Treated?
Asthma is a chronic disease. However, some people are able to manage asthma so that symptoms do not happen again or only occur rarely.
You can take steps to control asthma and prevent problems by working with your practitioner to set up and follow a personal asthma action plan and staying away from your asthma triggers.
What are Common Asthma Triggers?
What triggers one person’s asthma may not trigger another person’s asthma. Common triggers include tobacco smoke, animal urine, saliva, and dander. Dust mites, cockroaches, air pollution, mold, pollens, fragrances (including personal care products, lotions, and candles), physical activity, cold air, wood smoke, preservatives in alcohol called “sulfites,” and certain chemicals in cleaning products or other types of chemicals you might use at work or at home.
You may not want to use household products with chemical irritants and stick with “fragrance-free” products if fragrances trigger your asthma. Keep cockroaches away. Clean up food spills and clutter right away. Seal cracks that cockroaches and other pests can get through. Vacuum once a week. If you can, use a vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter. Dust with a damp cloth to trap dust mites. Stay away from pet dander. If pet dander triggers asthma, keep your pet out of your bedroom and regularly vacuum areas where they spend time. Do not smoke. Do not allow anyone to smoke inside your home or car. Wash off allergens or pollutants. Shower after going outside so that you wash off any allergens or pollution. Wash bedding in hot water regularly to kill dust mites.
If you are struggling with health issues, call the Advanced Chiropractic & Nutritional Healing Center at 240-651-1650 for a free consultation. Dr. Lo uses Nutritional Response Testing ® to analyze the body to determine the underlying causes of ill or non-optimum health. The office is located at 7310 Grove Road #107, Frederick, MD. Check out the website at www.doctorlo.com.