Bronchial asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases in adults and – according to WHO – the most common chronic disease in children and adolescents. Experts say every year this disease is diagnosed more often. The reason for this – a bad environment, the use of a large number of chemicals in the home and hereditary predisposition.
Fortunately, the use of pharmaceuticals and non-drug approaches to the treatment of asthma allows people suffering from this disease to live a full life, following reasonable restrictions and observing the doctor’s prescriptions. Let’s discuss the current approaches for the treatment of bronchial asthma.
Bronchial asthma: symptoms and effectiveness of treatment
The essence of bronchial asthma lies in the pathological reaction of the muscles of the bronchial tree (a system of tubes through which inhaled air enters the lungs and leaves them) to external and internal factors. An asthmatic may experience difficulty in the exhalation process. If the patient does not receive systematic treatment and is also unable to urgently use the inhaler, then this situation is fraught with a severe attack of breathlessness, which can lead to death without emergency medical care.
An attack of bronchial asthma is often accompanied by coughing, sneezing, urticaria (the rapid appearance of an itchy skin rash), and a person may develop cyanosis (blue) of the nasolabial triangle. You may hear wheezing when breathing.
Outside asthma attacks, as a rule, do not experience any unpleasant symptoms. If they take medications regularly and avoid contact with a trigger (a substance or a situation that provokes an attack), then others cannot guess their illness.
The trigger may be an allergen – pollen, animal dander, food, medicinal substance (for example, acetylsalicylic acid) – as well as exercise, sudden changes in ambient temperature, and even stress. At the stage of diagnosing bronchial asthma, the doctor identifies the factors that provoke attacks and gives the patient recommendations to eliminate triggers from everyday life.
Is it possible to completely recover from asthma?
From the point of view of official medicine, a definite answer to this question does not yet exist. So, many children with asthma safely get rid of all the symptoms of the disease when reaching adulthood – experts of Sky Pharmacy explain this maturation of the immune system. However, most adults with asthma are forced to take drugs for the rest of their lives. Many of them develop complications over time due to increased stress on the bronchi: pneumosclerosis, emphysema and chronic pulmonary heart – a pathological thickening of the heart walls.
Types of asthma and features of their treatment
Despite the unity of the pathological process underlying any asthmatic reaction, there are several varieties of this disease that have their own characteristics of development and course.
Atopic bronchial asthma is most common in children (70% of patients become ill with it at the age of under 20 years). The basis of the disease is an allergic reaction – the pathological intolerance of a substance. Often this asthma is combined with other manifestations of allergy: skin itching, swelling, etc. An exception to the allergy — dust, pet, food ingredient, or cosmetic — plays an important role in the treatment of atopic bronchial asthma. In cases where the attacks are due to a period of flowering of a plant, doctors even recommend changing their place of residence or leaving for another region in a dangerous month.
Non-allergic asthma often develops in adulthood. The causes of an attack, in this case, are irritating substances that cause bronchial reflex spasm – tobacco smoke, caustic chemicals. In addition, a perfume smell, cold air, physical exertion or a tense emotional situation can provoke an exacerbation. At the same time, it is important to understand that this is not about allergies (therefore, the term “cold allergy” is an incorrect term), but about the excessive reactivity of the organism. Often, the development of non-allergic asthma is caused by a long-term disease of the lower respiratory tract – for example, chronic bronchitis, which is almost always diagnosed in smokers with experience.
Infectious bronchial asthma develops under the influence of certain pathological microorganisms. The disease is preceded by an acute infection – pneumonia, bronchitis, tracheitis, which is not completely cured. Each new acute respiratory disease is accompanied by exacerbations of asthma, therefore, patients need to especially carefully follow the measures for the prevention of infectious diseases – put vaccinations on time and avoid contact with people with cold.
Principles of treatment of bronchial asthma in children and adults
Therapy of bronchial asthma has two main directions – basic (aimed at the mechanism of disease development) and symptomatic, designed to stop attacks when in contact with a trigger. The first is prescribed for a long-term, and drugs of this series are taken by patients daily, regardless of their health and other circumstances. Sky Pharmacy reminds that symptomatic therapy is a measure of rapid relief to which the patient turns in case he feels difficulty in breathing.
Methods of treatment of bronchial asthma
Since bronchial asthma is a disease known since ancient times, the history of its treatment also goes back many centuries. Before the emergence of potent drugs that contribute to the expansion of the bronchi and the removal of the inflammatory reaction, asthma was treated with traditional methods and lifestyle correction. Thus, the Italian doctor Gerolamo Cardano healed the English bishop with diet and exercise and also ordered the priest to replace the feather bed with a fabric mattress. Asian doctors removed asthma attacks with inhalations of eucalyptus vapor. Only in the 20th century, with the development of the pharmaceutical industry, means appeared to be guaranteed to prevent exacerbations of the disease, as well as proven methods of non-pharmacological therapy, which help to markedly alleviate the patient’s condition and reduce the drug burden on the body.
Drugs for the treatment of bronchial asthma
Since the basis of the pathological process in asthma is a special type of inflammatory reaction, basic drugs are aimed at its suppression. Such action is possessed by agents from the group of cromones, inhaled and systemic glucocorticosteroids, leukotriene receptor antagonists, and also monoclonal antibodies. All these drugs have a different form of release – aerosols, pills, solutions for injections – and are chosen by the doctor depending on the type of asthma and the nature of its course.
In cases where the disease is difficult to treat, the doctor may prescribe systemic glucocorticosteroids to the patient. These are hormonal drugs that have serious side effects (including osteoporosis, diabetes mellitus, obesity, the appearance of stretch marks on the skin, changes in facial features, etc.), so doctors try to prescribe them with short courses and only when uncontrolled asthma threatens the life of the patient.
A relatively new way of treating atopic bronchial asthma is allergen-specific immunotherapy aimed at suppressing the pathological immune response to triggers. Its essence lies in the phased introduction of the allergen into the patient’s body, which eventually leads to the “addiction” of the immune system to a substance that previously could provoke an attack.
Non-drug treatment of bronchial asthma
Along with drug approaches to the treatment of bronchial asthma, patients often prefer to use alternative ways of dealing with the disease: given the chronic nature of the disease, it is reasonable to combine both approaches in order to guarantee quick and effective relief from exacerbations and to avoid excessive drug load on the body.
- Elimination of risk factors is highly desirable for all asthmatics. The fact is that over time, the list of allergens that can cause an attack may expand: for example, if you initially had an allergy to birch pollen, then after a while, cherry or almond intolerance may occur (this is the so-called cross-allergy). The less often you are in contact with the trigger – the less likelihood of a similar effect;
- Diet and lifestyle changes are necessary for the prevention of comorbidities and maintaining body reserves. Many asthmatics advise physicians to actively engage in aerobics and other mobile forms of fitness: the development of chest muscles and the endurance of the cardiovascular system makes it easier to endure seizures and prolong periods of asthma remission;
- Breathing exercises are aimed at reducing alveolar hyperventilation – a condition where the natural process of gas exchange in the lung tissue is disturbed. One of the most popular systems of breathing exercises is the Buteyko method, which involves the regular implementation of a special sequence of inhalations and exhalations of varying lengths, alternating with breath holding;
- Speleotherapy involves long stays in natural karst caves, potash mines and grottoes, where a special microclimate is formed that has a healing effect on the human respiratory system;
- Halotherapy is an analogue of speleotherapy, organized in artificially recreated conditions – salt caves, which can be located on the basis of treatment-and-prophylactic centers, which allows combining this method with other physiotherapeutic approaches;
- Herbal medicine includes the use of medicinal plants for inhalation and ingestion in the form of tablets, tinctures and drops. Violet root, marshmallow, thermopsis, anise, fennel, coltsfoot and other ingredients serve as symptomatic therapy for asthma: they relieve cough and make breathing easier. It is important to carefully select a treatment considering the possible development of an allergic reaction to these and other plants;
- Acupressure is traditionally referred to as the methods of Oriental medicine. The targeted effect on the biologically active points on the patient’s body allows relaxation of the smooth muscles of the bronchi;
- Acupuncture is also aimed at stimulating the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for expanding the lumen of the bronchi and reducing mucus production. This method should be performed by an experienced professional with a good knowledge of traditional medicine;
- Vacuum therapy (canned massage) helps to improve the metabolic processes in the patient’s body, strengthens the immune system, improves vitality;
- Moxibustion implies attachment of special smoldering cigars (mox) to biologically active points on the patient’s body. Aromatic herbs are used as a moxa filler: wormwood, edelweiss, juniper and others. With the correct technique of performing the procedure, the method does not cause unpleasant sensations and contributes to the restoration of proper nervous regulation (especially useful for non-allergic asthma);
- Hirudotherapy is based on the beneficial effects of enzymes that enter the body when a bite is a medicinal leech. This method stimulates the immune system, has a reflexotherapeutic, draining and anti-inflammatory effect.
Anyone who has experienced asthma sooner or later becomes a specialist in this disease. Careful attitude to your own health, as well as interest in a variety of treatment methods, will help you avoid exacerbations and unwanted complications and take the disease under control. After all, asthma is not a sentence, but only a feature of the body, with which you can coexist quite well.