I was looking through all the articles I have written for this blog over the years and I was quite surprised when I realized that I have never written about asthma. It is a common affliction that most commonly affects children, but is being seen more and more in adults in the form of adult-onset asthma and appears to be on the rise in general.
Asthma is usually defined by a narrowing of the very small bronchioles (close to the alveoli) resulting in a prolonged and/or labored exhalation and wheezing.
Without wheezing, like a whistling or hissing sound on exhalation, there is no asthma.
It is considered a lower respiratory tract disease, as opposed to an upper respiratory tract disease where the nose, throat, larynx, pharynx and upper bronchi are affected, which normally results in difficulty inhaling. In some cases, patients complain of both, inhalation and exhalation difficulties.
Asthma results from complex interactions between an individual’s inherited genetic makeup and their interactions with the environment.
The following are risk factors for asthma
- a deviated septum
- any kind of allergies
- viral respiratory illness such as respiratory syncytial virus during childhood
- exposure to cigarette smoke
In most cases, the disease starts in early childhood from 2 to 6 years of age.
The cause of asthma in this age group is often linked to exposure to allergens, such as dust mites, tobacco smoke, and viral respiratory infections.
In fact, about 70-80% of children with asthma also have allergies.
Other allergic conditions, such as nasal allergies or eczema, are often present.
Asthma can also develop in adulthood. Adult-onset asthma occurs more frequently in women and often follows a respiratory tract infection. The triggers are usually non-allergic in nature for this age group.
The treatment goals for asthma
- to adequately control symptoms
- minimize the risk of future exacerbations
- maintain normal lung function
- maintain normal activity levels
- use the least amount of medication possible
Inhaled corticosteroids are the most effective anti-inflammatory agents available for the chronic treatment of asthma. The combination of a long-acting bronchodilator and an inhaled corticosteroid often works best.
In my clinic I often treat both children and adults with asthma. Acupuncture can be used to both reduce a person’s allergic response and at the same time increase their lung’s functional abilities. Children tend to respond quicker and more favorably with acupuncture treatments, but it also helps adults in being able to maintain minimal need for asthma medication.
Enjoy the winter wonderland and stay active!