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  • 3 Signs That Your Asthma Could Be Worsening, According To A Doctor

    Though there's really no cure for asthma, it can be controlled.
    by Jocelyn Valle .
3 Signs That Your Asthma Could Be Worsening, According To A Doctor
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  • If you are among the 11 million Filipinos who suffer from asthma, according to data from the Global Asthma Report, you better not join the 98 percent who continue to lack proper treatment. Doctors strongly advise that you have your asthma symptoms checked so you can monitor your condition.

    That's the message of Dr. Paul Rilhelm M. Evangelista, a specialist in pulmonology medicine and interventional pulmonology, in his recent webinar, titled Usapang Asthma. It is posted on the Facebook page of the Philippine College of Chest Physicians.

    What is asthma?

    Dr. Evangelista describes asthma as a "heterogenous, chronic airway inflammatory condition which affects the size and shape of the airways causing breathing difficulties." That inflammation in the airways causes the tightness around the pulmonary area.

    He points out that asthma can affect anyone, whether children or adults, but the condition is oftentimes diagnosed in younger people. There are two factors that influence the development of asthma in a person: inherited tendency and environment.

    The doctor hastens to add, though, that just because one of your parents has asthma doesn't mean you will automatically have asthma. It only means a higher tendency to have the condition and it will continue in your family history of asthma.

    What happens if you have asthma?

    To give both a bigger and detailed picture of asthma, Dr. Evangelista explains how the respiratory system works. It begins with the oxygen that enters through your nose or mouth and goes down to your throat and wind pipe (trachea). From there, the oxygen will pass through either the right or left bronchus to finally reach the airways into the lungs.

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    Dr. Evangelista notes that the airways get smaller and smaller just like the tiniest tree branches, while the oxygen enters the air sacs, also called alveolus. There are thousands of alveoli, where the gas exchange happens. Meaning, the oxygen is absorbed by the walls of the alveoli and goes into the bloodstream, while the waste gas or carbon dioxide is exhaled by the lungs.

    In normal airways, the muscles surrounding the bronchi are relaxed for the air to freely flow. Additionally, the lining is just thin enough to filter the air that enters from the nose and mouth.

    When something goes wrong in the normal airways, the walls of the bronchioles contract and narrow the space for the air to flow, thus bronchospasm happens. Meaning, the lining of bronchioles becomes swollen and it thickens, resulting in edema and inflammation. Another problem arises from the overproduction of mucus, that eventually blocks the airways.

    Asthma symptoms

    Dr. Evangelista explains why an asthma patient experiences these four main symptoms.

    Wheezing

    If your airways have narrowed, you will feel like gasping for breath and create a sound that is, as demonstrated by Dr. Evangelista, like birds chirping. This is actually called wheezing.

    Cough

    If there's too much mucus in the airways, you will cough a lot in a rather forced manner.

    Breathlessness

    If there's trapped air in your airways, you will have difficulty breathing like losing your breath.

    Chest tightness

    If you have narrowed airways, too much mucus, and trapped air, you will will feel tightness in your chest.

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    How is asthma treated?

    Dr. Evangelista makes it clear that there is no cure for asthma, but it can be controlled. He avers, "Let your doctor be your partner in controlling your asthma. Consult about your asthma symptoms."

    What the doctor means by controlled asthma:

    • No symptoms at nighttime
    • No symptoms at daytime
    • No limitation in exercise
    • Doesn’t always depend on relievers
    • Rarely experiences attacks or episodes
    • No emergency room visits
    • Best possible peak flow
    • No side effects from medicines

    Asthma medicines can be inhaled, injected, nebulized (but not during COVID-19 era), or taken orally. They also come in two forms: relievers and controllers. Aside from taking your medication and consulting your healthcare provider, it is also advisable to continuously and consciously monitor your asthma.

    Dr. Evangelista also suggests to look out for signs that may mean your asthma is worsening:

    • Wheezing that can not be relieved by medicines and also interferes in daily life
    • Coughing that can not be relieved by medicines
    • Wheezing that wakes you up at night is also a serious asthma symptom
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