Health & Fitness

What Is Severe Asthma? Attacks, Symptoms, and Treatments

For the majority of asthma sufferers inhalers, inhalers, and other common therapies can reduce or minimize breathing issues as well as other signs. For those with severe asthma, the standard treatment options don’t accomplish the task.

If someone is experiencing symptoms of asthma more than two times per week the condition is referred to as “persistent.” And among those with asthma that is persistent doctors define the condition as mild, moderate, or severe.

“The symptoms of severe asthma are similar to those of mild asthma, they’re just more frequent and more severe, and require more medications to keep them under control,” says Emily Pennington, MD Pulmonologist and asthma doctor at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

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Severe Asthma Attacks Can Resemble Milder Attacks; They Can Also Be Medical Emergencies

The severity of asthma attacks varies between individuals. However, for many people, the symptoms are similar to those experienced by milder asthma. The symptoms appear more often many times during the day. They aren’t well-responsible for medications according to the doctor. Pennington explains.

In these types of severe asthma attacks, people can be afflicted by: Trouble breathing

  • Wheezing
  • Trouble speaking because of breath shortness
  • Coughing
  • Chest tightness

For people who suffer from asthma that is severe attacks, they may cause symptoms that require medical care. This includes:

  • Rapid and difficult breathing
  • Blue or pale lips, fingers, or skin coloring
  • A rapid movement of the nostrils
  • The stomach and ribs are suckering in and pushing out swiftly and evidently
  • The chest expands as you are taking an inhalation, but doesn’t shrink.

What Causes Asthma to Be Severe?

It’s unclear why certain people with asthma suffer more severe or difficult-to-control symptoms. There are some theories according to the charity Asthma UK:

  • The airways of the lung are so inflamed that regular treatments don’t work.
  • Chemical molecules and other asthma triggers that can cause symptoms in a person aren’t prevented by the current medication.
  • The patient has an undiagnosed and mild type of asthma, which gets worse in time because of the absence of treatment.

What Are the Symptoms of Severe Asthma?

On a typical day, the signs of severe asthma can be compared to symptoms of other types of asthma. The difference is that those who suffer from severe asthma are more likely to experience attacks every day. The symptoms of an attack are very severe and do not respond well to treatment or require a combination of therapies, which includes corticosteroid therapy. The signs of severe asthma can include difficulty breathing, wheezing, constant cough, and chest pain or tightness.

Doctors Diagnose Severe Asthma With a Series of Lung Function Tests and by Determining the Severity and Frequency of Your Symptoms

Dr. Pennington says severe asthma is determined in part by the signs and the criteria that were mentioned earlier. Therefore, if the symptoms of asthma are considered to be chronic (experienced at least two times per week or more) and they don’t respond well to treatment this person could be diagnosed with severe asthma.

Alongside assessing the symptoms and performing physical examinations, many doctors will also conduct some sort of test known as an “objective” lung-function test in order to determine if you have severe asthma. The test can take a variety of forms, such as:

The results of these tests could aid your doctor to determine whether your asthma symptoms can be classified as severe asthma.

Severe Asthma Treatment Usually Includes Inhalers and Oral Medication (if Needed)

According to the definition, most people suffering from severe asthma will be treated using a combination of inhalable corticosteroids (inhalers) as well as a different type of medication. Others may need or may require, oral corticosteroid medicines.