Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that causes inflammation of the bronchial tubes,  or airways of the lungs, which carry oxygen to the body. The inflammation or swelling causes the airways to become narrow which leads to difficulty in breathing. The inflammation increases the sensitivity of the airways, making them susceptible to allergic reactions.

In severe cases, asthma patients might suffer an asthma attack, which is a sudden onset of asthma symptoms caused by narrowing of airway muscles.  An asthma attack can prove to be fatal and requires immediate medical care or even, hospitalization.

Asthma can affect people of all ages. However, the disease is usually diagnosed during childhood.

You may be suffering from asthma if you exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Problems in breathing

  • Tightness in the chest

  • Wheezing (hissing sound while breathing)

  • Persistent coughing

  • Trouble sleeping due to shortness of breath

These symptoms become pronounced at night and during early morning. They may also get worse during strenuous physical activity or if you are under high pressure, and may be triggered by environmental factors such as dust, smoke, mildew, pollen, or animal droppings. 

If you experience any of the signs and symptoms associated with asthma, consult your family doctor. If your doctor fears that there may be indications of asthma he/she will refer you to a specialist working with the Heart, Lungs and Vascular Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital, for a detailed diagnosis and treatment.

Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

To begin your diagnosis, your doctor will ask questions about your medical history and the details of your symptoms. He/she will also ask if any of your family members have asthma.

You will also undergo breathing tests, called lung function tests or pulmonary function tests, to assess how well your lungs are working. These will include the following:

  • Spirometry: this is a simple breathing test that measures the amount and pace of the air you can blow out of your lungs. It is used to measure the amount of airway obstruction you may have.

  • Methacholine challenge test: if spirometry is not sufficient to provide an accurate diagnosis, you will be asked to undergo this test. The test confirms asthma if your airways contract when exposed to the drug, metacholine.

People with asthma also have allergies. Your doctor may also ask you to take an allergy test to identify the agent causing the allergies.

Asthma has no cure. However, efforts can be taken to manage the symptoms and prevent them from interfering during your routine activities. 

Your doctor will prescribe you a number of medicines that need to be taken regularly to help avoid the onset of asthma symptoms. These will include:

  • Inhaled corticosteroids: these are anti-inflammatory medicines (steroids) which act locally in the lung to stop the inflammation. These maybe prescribed in combination with long-acting beta-agonist (LABA), which is a symptom controller and helpful in opening airways.

  • Leukotriene modifiers: these are medicines prescribed to manage allergies.

People with asthma have increased risk of developing pulmonary diseases including pneumonia and influenza. Therefore, it is very essential that you get regular vaccinations against these if you are an asthma patient. 

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.