Asthma is a condition wherein the airways have a tendency to inflame in response to triggers which could be environmental and genetic. The resultant attack is called an Asthma attack. Since the symptoms are similar to another pulmonary disease, they should be diagnosed before going for medical treatment. The inflammation that occurs is irreversible and the patient is restored to a normal state after the attack passes. This is a tell-tale sign of Asthma.
Asthma is classified into many types and briefly, all of them belong to two states. One is an acute state with attacks that can worsen and a chronic state where there is consistency in the attacks
The symptoms of acute asthma include wheezing and a feeling of severe chest congestion. Wheezing does not always occur if the attack is severe and the pathway is highly constricted resulting in no air coming out. Coughing is another symptom and it produces clear phlegm. Stridor, a high-pitched sound due to obstruction of the upper air pathway is also a symptom of acute asthma and this may occur when wheezing is absent. Sometimes attacks are so severe that medication has almost no effect. Such situations are medical emergencies and warrant attention.
Symptoms of steady-state asthma include excessive coughing, constriction feeling in the chest, and shortness of breath under stress. Only when a person exerts himself physically, gasping and shortness of breathing results. Steady-state chronic asthma can worsen and the attacks can turn violent like in acute asthma. This manifests as an increase in symptoms and should be looked out for.
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Classification of attacks based on the periodicity of occurrence has a bearing on the signs and symptoms. If the attack is mild and occurs irregularly, then there may be no tell-tale symptoms. Attacks that occur not more than three or four times a month are of this type. As the period of attacks increases more than thrice a week, there may be wheezing and tightness of the chest. The symptoms can also occur during the nighttime. When the attacks turn persistent and severe, the symptoms may be there for a longer period of time and may require a course of medication and not simply relief medication like bronchodilators.
During a severe attack, the skin color can turn bluish. The phenomenon is called cyanosis. This is due to a lack of oxygen in the blood. When the airways are constricted then the body’s requirement of oxygen is not met. Deoxygenated blood is blue in color and is pumped throughout the body. Many conditions can cause cyanosis. It is an after-effect of a condition and not an actual symptom. Defects in hemoglobin can also lead to a decrease in blood oxygen. Heart diseases and cardiac arrest can also be called cyanosis. Hence it is very important to get the patient to a medical facility as soon as this is detected. If left unattended organ failure can occur and it can prove fatal in no time
During a severe asthma attack, cyanosis can be detected only if the oxygen level goes below 92-90%. It is easier to spot in dark-skinned people where it can be seen clearly around the eyes, gums, and nails.
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A severe attack can also impair the senses temporarily. There is confusion and daze while the patient can be left feeling numb. There is also an increased sense of anxiety and decreased alertness. Excessive sweating from efforts to respire can also be spotted in case of a severe asthma attack. There can also be a pain in the chest and the patient can lose consciousness.
Episodes of asthma attacks can be life-threatening because they can occur with alarming regularity. The symptoms can weaken the pathways and result in infection. During asthma episodes, the heartbeat increases and the flow pattern of blood may change. On chest examination, the honchos sound produced by the lungs can be heard. Sometimes labored breathing can cause a depression between the ribs which indicates the strain in muscles that aid respiration.
Symptoms of asthma can often be seen in other diseases as well. As of now, there is no cure for this disease. With medical help available to lessen the symptoms a patient can lead a normal life. But caution must be exercised when going out to prevent irritants from triggering. Smoking can prove fatal instantly. Even the slightest symptom could be enough to seek medical help and shouldn’t be ignored