Asthma: inflammation of the respiratory tract
Asthma is a lung disease characterized by inflammation of the airways in the bronchi and bronchioles. This inflammation is due to the production of thick secretions inside the bronchi, which impede air circulation.
Also, the muscles around the bronchi contract, causing the bronchi to close. If the bronchial tubes of the lungs are closed, the air can’t get through, making it difficult to breathe.
Asthma prevalence and risk factors
More than 2.5 million Canadians suffer from asthma. Both adults and children are affected. Some people are more predisposed to asthma, such as those with a family history of asthma, those with a history of allergic reactions, those born prematurely, and those with severe and frequent childhood respiratory infections.
Secondly, it’s important to point out that people who are exposed to certain environmental factors can develop asthma. Many irritants, such as tobacco smoke, dust, animals, irritants in the workplace and strong odours from certain cleaning products and perfumes, can make a person more susceptible to developing the disease.
Manifestations and signs of an asthma attack
Asthma sufferers may experience asthma attacks. These occur when symptoms worsen. In addition to irritants, other factors can trigger an attack. These include sudden changes in temperature during cold weather or when the ambient air is humid, air quality both indoors and outdoors, physical activity, emotional disturbances and hormonal changes.
On the other hand, certain warning signs of an asthma attack can alert the person, such as shortness of breath, wheezing and faster breathing, a cough that lasts a long time, chest pain, headache and fatigue. These signs call for medical attention as soon as possible.
Asthma diagnosis and treatment
Asthma is diagnosed on the basis of certain respiratory tests. Spirometry and peak expiratory flow are performed to measure the maximum amount of air a person can exhale, and the speed at which this can be done. Spirometry is used to monitor the progression of the disease, while peak expiratory flow is used to check whether asthma is well controlled and whether treatment is appropriate.
As far as treatment is concerned, several medications can be used to control asthma symptoms and manage attacks. Bronchodilators, i.e. drugs that open up the bronchial tubes, can be used in case of emergency, as they open up the bronchial tubes and promote the passage of air so that the person can breathe more easily. Some bronchodilators work quickly, others over a longer period.
Corticosteroids are also used as maintenance medication for asthma sufferers. They help reduce inflammation in the bronchial tubes. Other medications may also be prescribed, such as leukotriene receptor antagonists.
Naturally, the body produces leukotrienes, which are substances produced in response to certain asthma triggers such as allergens. These natural substances cause the airways to close and become inflamed.
So certain drugs, called leukotriene receptor antagonists, are used to counteract the effects of leukotrienes. These drugs help control asthma and treat symptoms associated with seasonal allergic rhinitis.
Study under recruitment
An asthma-related study is currently being recruited at our Val Bélair and Lebourgneuf clinics. You may be eligible to participate if you have asthma.
To find out more about the studies currently being recruited, please contact the Alpha Clinical Research team at 418-704-1112 (Lebourgneuf) or 418-847-1112 (Val-Bélair).