Bronchial Asthma Overview
Asthma is a prevalent respiratory disorder that affects people of all ages. Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is estimated that over 300 million individuals worldwide suffer from asthma, and the numbers continue to rise. Bronchial asthma occurs when the airways become inflamed and overly sensitive to certain triggers, such as allergens, irritants, exercise, or respiratory infections. These triggers cause the airways to narrow, making it difficult for air to pass through which leads to recurrent episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing. Bronchial asthma, commonly referred to as just asthma, can significantly impact a person’s quality of life if not properly managed.
Causes of Bronchial Asthma
Bronchial asthma is a complex condition influenced by various factors. While the exact causes are not fully understood, several factors contribute to its development:
- Genetics: Individuals with a family history of asthma are more likely to develop the condition. Certain genes related to immune system regulation and airway inflammation play a role in asthma susceptibility.
- Environmental Factors: Exposure to allergens, irritants, and pollutants can trigger asthma symptoms. Common allergens include dust mites, pollen, pet dander, mold, and certain foods. Irritants such as smoke, strong odors, and air pollution can also worsen asthma.
- Respiratory Infections: Viral or bacterial respiratory infections, particularly during early childhood, can increase the risk of developing asthma. These infections can cause airway inflammation and trigger an exaggerated immune response.
- Allergic Sensitization: Some individuals develop asthma as a result of allergic sensitization. Repeated exposure to allergens can lead to an immune system response that triggers airway inflammation and constriction.
- Hygiene Hypothesis: The hygiene hypothesis suggests that reduced exposure to certain infections and microorganisms during early childhood may contribute to an increased risk of developing asthma. A lack of exposure to microbes may affect the development of the immune system.
- Obesity: Obesity is associated with an increased risk of asthma. Excess weight can lead to inflammation and reduced lung function, making individuals more susceptible to asthma symptoms.
- Occupational Exposures: Certain occupations or workplace environments with exposure to chemicals, dust, or fumes can contribute to the development or exacerbation of asthma.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Bronchial Asthma
Bronchial asthma is characterized by a range of symptoms that can vary in severity and frequency among individuals. Recognizing these symptoms and obtaining an accurate diagnosis is crucial for effective management. Here are the common symptoms and diagnostic methods for bronchial asthma:
- Wheezing: Wheezing is a high-pitched whistling sound produced during breathing. It occurs when the airways become narrowed or constricted, resulting in difficulty in exhaling.
- Shortness of Breath: Individuals with asthma may experience a feeling of breathlessness or be unable to catch their breath. This sensation can range from mild to severe.
- Chest Tightness: Many asthma sufferers experience a tight or constricted feeling in the chest, often described as a pressure or squeezing sensation.
- Coughing: Persistent coughing, particularly during the night or early morning, is a common symptom of asthma. The cough may be dry or accompanied by the production of mucus.
- Increased Mucus Production: The airways of individuals with asthma often produce excess mucus, leading to a sensation of phlegm or mucus in the throat.
It’s important to note that symptoms can vary from person to person, and some individuals may experience symptoms intermittently or during specific triggers, such as exercise or exposure to allergens.
To diagnose bronchial asthma, healthcare professionals typically follow a comprehensive approach, which may include:
- Medical History: A detailed medical history is taken to understand the individual’s symptoms, triggers, and any family history of asthma or allergies.
- Physical Examination: A physical examination, including lung auscultation with a stethoscope, is conducted to listen for wheezing or other abnormal respiratory sounds.
- Lung Function Tests: Spirometry is a commonly used lung function test that measures the amount and speed of air that can be inhaled and exhaled. It helps assess the degree of airflow limitation and the response to bronchodilators.
- Peak Flow Measurement: Peak flow monitoring involves using a handheld device to measure how fast an individual can forcefully exhale air. This test helps track changes in lung function over time.
- Allergy Testing: Allergy tests, such as skin prick tests or blood tests, may be performed to identify specific allergens that trigger asthma symptoms.
- Bronchial Challenge Test: In some cases, a bronchial challenge test may be conducted to evaluate airway hyperresponsiveness. It involves inhaling substances that cause temporary airway constriction.
- Chest X-ray or CT Scan: These imaging tests may be ordered to rule out other possible causes of respiratory symptoms and assess the condition of the lungs.
Ayurveda Perspective of Asthma
There are 5 types of swasa according to Ayurveda which are given below:
- Maha Swasa(Fatal Dyspnoea)
- Urdhva Swasa(Gasping Respiration)
- Chhinna Swasa(Cheyne Stokes Breathing)
- Tamak Swasa (Bronchial Asthma)
- Kshudra Swasa(Exertional Dyspnoea)Bronchial Asthma is Compared with Tamaka Swasa according to Ayurveda. Tamak Swasa’s symptoms are similar to the Modern disease of Bronchial asthma.
रजसा धूमवाताभ्यां शीतस्थानाम्बुसेवनात् |
Raja (Dust), Dhuma(Smoke), Vata(Wind), Sheet Sthan(stay in a cold place), Ambu Sevan(Excessive use of cold water), Avyayama(Lack of Exercise), Gramyadharma( Excessive intercourse), Ruksha anna(Dry food), Vishamashana(Intake food in less or excessive quantity at irregular time).
Pathogenesis(Samprapti) of Asthma(Swasa)
यदा स्रोतांसि संरुध्य मारुतः कफपूर्वकः |
विष्वग्व्रजति संरुद्धस्तदा श्वासान्करोति सः ||
The aggravated Vayu along with vitiated Kapha obstructs the channels (of Prana, Udaka and Annavaha) and spreads throughout the body, and produces Swasa.
Symptoms of Tamak Swasa
प्रतिलोमं यदा वायुः स्रोतांसि प्रतिपद्यते | ग्रीवां शिरश्च सङ्गृह्य श्लेष्माणं समुदीर्य च ||
करोति पीनसं तेन रुद्धो घुर्घुरुकं तथा | अतीव तीव्रवेगं च श्वासं प्राणप्रपीडकम् ||
प्रताम्यत्यतिवेगाच्च कासते सन्निरुध्यते | प्रमोहं कासमानश्च स गच्छति मुहुर्मुहुः ||
श्लेष्मण्यमुच्यमाने तु भृशं भवति दुःखितः | तस्यैव च विमोक्षान्ते मुहूर्तं लभते सुखम् ||
अथास्योद्ध्वंसते कण्ठः कृच्छ्राच्छक्नोति भाषितुम् | न चापि निद्रां लभते शयानः श्वासपीडितः ||
पार्श्वे तस्यावगृह्णाति शयानस्य समीरणः | आसीनो लभते सौख्यमुष्णं चैवाभिनन्दति ||
उच्छ्रिताक्षो ललाटेन स्विद्यता भृशमर्तिमान् | विशुष्कास्यो मुहुः श्वासो मुहुश्चैवावधम्यते ||
मेघाम्बुशीतप्राग्वातैः श्लेष्मलैश्चाभिवर्धते | स याप्यस्तमकश्वासः साध्यो वा स्यान्नवोत्थितः ||
इति तमकश्वासः |
Vayu goes in the opposite direction due to the obstruction of air, stiffness in the neck, and smell which aggravates the kapha and produces rhinorrhea and gurghuraka (rhonchi) sound. A severe attack harms the prana and worsens. During a severe attack, the patient passes out frequently, has a strong cough, and is unconscious.
The patient has difficulty coughing up phlegm and feels comfortable for one hour (3 hours) after coughing up phlegm. There is a hoarse voice and the patient speaks strongly, although he does not sleep well, and when he lies down he has dyspnea as his side is painful in the vayu.
It is comfortable in the sitting position. He likes hot things. His eyes are still clear, sweat on his forehead, dry mouth, and frequent dyspnea, he gets up and falls down. It worsens when the appearance of clouds in the sky, rain, cold, east wind, and kapha improves food and behavior. Tamaka Swasa with the above-mentioned characteristics is Yapya (palliable) and in the early stages, it is a curable disease.
Ayurvedic Treatment for Bronchial Asthma
- Nidan Parivarjana
- Anuvasana Basti
- Abhyanga(massage) on the chest with Saindhav Lavan + Til Tailam
- Bharngyadi Kashayam
- Swaskasachintamani Rasa
- Swasakuthar Rasa
- Kafketu Rasa
- Vasant Malti Rasa
- Abhraka Bhasma
- Vyoshadi Vati
- Lavangadi Vati
- Shrung Bhasma
- Vasadi Kashayam
- Kafkuthar Rasa
- Haridra Khanda
- Pushkarmool Churnam
Single herbs for Asthma
- Vasa(Adhatoda Vasika)
- Pippali(Piper longum)
- Bharangi(Clerodendrum Serratum)
- Amalaki(Phyllanthus emblica)
- Maricha (Black pepper)
- Pushkarmool(Inula racemosa)
Lifestyle Changes for Asthma Management
In addition to medical interventions, certain lifestyle modifications can help individuals better manage their asthma. These include:
- Identifying Triggers: Understanding and avoiding triggers that worsen asthma symptoms, such as dust mites, pollen, pet dander, or smoke.
- Maintaining a Healthy Environment: Keeping the home clean, well-ventilated, and free from potential allergens can contribute to improved asthma control.
- Regular Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity can strengthen the respiratory muscles and improve overall lung function.
- Stress Management: Practicing stress reduction techniques, such as deep breathing exercises or meditation, can help minimize the impact of stress on asthma symptoms.
Prevention of Bronchial Asthma
While asthma cannot be entirely prevented, certain measures can reduce the risk of developing the condition or experiencing severe symptoms. These preventive strategies include:
- Avoiding Tobacco Smoke: Both active and passive smoking can trigger or worsen asthma symptoms. It is crucial to stay away from smoke and create smoke-free environments.
- Reducing Allergen Exposure: Minimizing exposure to common allergens, such as dust mites, pollen, mold, and animal dander, can help prevent asthma attacks.
- Maintaining Good Indoor Air Quality: Proper ventilation, regular cleaning, and the use of air filters can improve indoor air quality and reduce asthma triggers.
- Vaccinations: Keeping up with recommended vaccinations, such as the flu vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine, can help prevent respiratory infections that can trigger asthma exacerbations.
Managing Asthma Attacks
Despite preventive measures, asthma attacks can still occur. It is important to be prepared and know how to manage an asthma attack. Some essential steps to take during an asthma attack include:
- Using Rescue Medications: Quick-relief medications, such as short-acting bronchodilators, can help open up the airways and provide immediate relief during an asthma attack.
- Following Asthma Action Plan: Individuals with asthma should have a personalized action plan provided by their healthcare provider, which outlines steps to take during an asthma attack.
- Seeking Medical Assistance: If symptoms worsen, or the use of rescue medications does not provide relief, it is essential to seek immediate medical attention to prevent a potentially life-threatening situation.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Some individuals may explore complementary and alternative therapies to complement their asthma management. While these therapies may provide relief for some, it is important to discuss them with a healthcare professional. Some examples include:
- Breathing Exercises: Techniques such as deep breathing exercises, yoga, or tai chi may help improve breathing and reduce stress.
- Acupuncture: Some individuals find acupuncture helpful in alleviating asthma symptoms, although scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness is limited.
- Herbal Remedies: Certain herbal remedies, such as eucalyptus or ginger, may have anti-inflammatory properties and potentially help manage asthma symptoms. However, their use should be approached with caution and under medical supervision.
Asthma in Children
Asthma is a common respiratory condition among children, affecting their daily activities and overall quality of life. Children with asthma often experience symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. It is essential for parents and caregivers to work closely with healthcare providers to develop a comprehensive asthma management plan tailored to the child’s needs.
Asthma and Exercise
Regular physical activity is important for overall health, even for individuals with asthma. Engaging in appropriate exercises can strengthen the respiratory muscles and improve lung function. It is important for individuals with asthma to consult their healthcare provider and develop an exercise plan that considers their specific needs and triggers.
Traveling with Asthma
Traveling can pose certain challenges for individuals with asthma, but it should not limit their ability to explore and enjoy new destinations. Some tips for traveling with asthma include:
- Carrying Medications: Ensure an adequate supply of asthma medications, including both maintenance and rescue medications, when traveling.
- Researching Destination: Learn about the air quality, climate, and potential triggers at the travel destination to better prepare and take necessary precautions.
- Requesting Special Accommodations: Inform airlines or accommodations about specific needs, such as seating arrangements or allergen-free accommodations, to ensure a comfortable journey.
- Having a Written Asthma Action Plan: Carry a written copy of the asthma action plan, which includes emergency contact information, in case of an asthma attack.
Asthma and Allergies
Allergies and asthma often go hand in hand. Allergic triggers, such as pollen, dust mites, or pet dander, can worsen asthma symptoms. It is important to identify and manage these allergens to minimize asthma flare-ups. This may involve allergen avoidance strategies, medications to control allergic reactions, and regular follow-ups with an allergist.
1. Can asthma be cured?
Unfortunately, asthma cannot be cured. However, with proper management and adherence to treatment plans, most individuals with asthma can lead a normal and active life.
2. Can asthma develop in adulthood?
Yes, asthma can develop at any age. It is not uncommon for individuals to experience their first asthma symptoms during adulthood.
3. Are all wheezing episodes related to asthma?
Not all wheezing episodes are due to asthma. Other respiratory conditions or infections can also cause wheezing. It is essential to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis.
4. Can stress trigger asthma symptoms?
Yes, stress can trigger or worsen asthma symptoms in some individuals. It is important to manage stress through relaxation techniques and stress-reducing activities.
5. Are there any natural remedies for asthma?
While certain natural remedies may provide relief for some individuals, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before using them. Natural remedies should not replace prescribed asthma medications.