Asthma is a respiratory condition which affects over million people in the world and can cause severe breathing difficulties. These are caused by a constriction to the airways and swelling of the lungs which can cause attacks when triggered by straining the lungs through exercise or dust and chemicals.

The condition can be difficult to live with when left untreated but most patients nowadays have a range of medication available to them which can make the condition manageable and limit the chances of suffering from asthma attacks or complications.

What is an asthma attack?

Attacks are used to describe episodes which can affect patients in varying degrees and frequencies. The small air passages which lead to the lungs are known as bronchioles, which constrict and expand with normal breathing rhythms. When someone suffering from asthma comes into contact with what is known as an ‘irritant’, it can cause the bronchioles to constrict rapidly, limiting the airflow.

Ashtma attacks are generally characterised by symptoms such as excessive coughing and wheezing and a difficulty in gaining enough oxygen. People who have been diagnosed with asthma are usually given an inhaler which can be used during an attack in order to stop the asthma symptoms and limit the risks of more serious problems.

What are the causes of Asthma attacks?

Asthma information relating to the causes is limited and people develop it at different stages in life for different reasons, although it is believed that most sufferers are born with a pre-disposition to develop the condition. Living in areas of high pollution is also considered a factor, and children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy are thought to be at higher risk.

There is another school of thought which suggests the possibility that children who are never exposed to such substances may fail to build up the necessary immunities and be more likely to develop asthma symptoms when they grow older.

What causes an attack?

Different patients have different triggers for asthma attacks and some may rarely experience them at all. The more common triggers include cigarette smoke, certain chemicals, pollution or exercise. However, there are other causes such as stress that can also trigger attacks or make them more likely.

With the correct medication, asthma attacks can be easy to control and less likely to occur, but the most important thing you can do to avoid them is to recognise the triggers in order to prevent attacks more effectively.

How is asthma diagnosed?

The symptoms can vary depending on the person, but if you are suffering from any kind of breathing difficulty it is important to see a doctor for asthma information and treatment. Some asthmatics can experience trouble breathing at night, in addition to when they come into contact with one of the irritants such as smoke, pollution, chemicals, scents or certain viruses or bacteria.

There are different tests which your GP may carry out after you explain your symptoms. These can include a spirometry or a peak expiratory flow rate test, which will assess your lung function, although in some cases further tests may be needed to test the airways or check for allergies.

How is it treated?

Asthma is usually treated with inhalers which contain medication that can be released directly into the lungs. Most patients will have a reliever inhaler such as Ventolin, which can be used during an attack in order to instantly reduce asthma symptoms and help with breathing.

Some patients will also use preventer inhalers, which are created for daily use and work by minimising the swelling and irritation which are likely to cause an attack. Preventer inhalers are used together with relievers when needed in order to ensure that the asthma symptoms do not get worse and cause more serious problems.