The experienced General Practitioners at SmartClinics Family Medical Centres can diagnose and treat asthma in patients of all ages.
If you are concerned you or someone you care for may have asthma, or if you are looking for help managing your asthma, click here to find a GP near you and book an asthma appointment.
What is asthma?
Asthma is a chronic condition in which inflammation and hyperreactivity of the airways causes them to narrow, resulting in difficulty breathing and reduced airflow in the lungs. It is a very common condition and can affect people from all backgrounds. Approximately 2.5 million Australians have asthma, which represents around 10% of the population.
Asthma is an unpredictable condition. During “flare-ups”, the air passages constrict. Flare-ups can happen quickly and without notice (sometimes referred to as an asthma attack) or can develop more slowly over a period of days.
What are the symptoms of asthma?
Common symptoms of asthma include:
- Feeling out of breath
- Tightness in the chest
Asthma symptoms can vary between people and may even change for an individual over time. Symptoms can evolve depending on age, fitness, environmental and lifestyle factors or even the time of day. Many people report their symptoms worsen in the early mornings, evenings or when exercising. However, most people do not exhibit any symptoms of asthma for extended periods of time, often thanks to doctor-prescribed methods of keeping the illness under control. Your symptoms may differ from those listed above as it is not an exhaustive list. It is important to consult with a GP to ensure that you receive the correct diagnosis and treatment for your specific condition.
Can asthma be cured?
There is no cure for asthma. However, there are methods of controlling symptoms to the extent that quality of life can be greatly improved and the impact of asthma reduced.
Is asthma more common than it used to be?
There is evidence that the incidence of asthma is rising. The reasons for this, however, are very difficult to establish. Some theories point to people spending more time indoors in poorly circulated air, while others believe that air pollution and even improved medical treatments (possibly causing weaker immune systems) may be the cause. More research is needed to identify a specific cause for the increased prevalence of asthma.
Does asthma get worse at night?
For many people, the symptoms of asthma worsen in the evenings and at night. There are multiple reasons for this:
- Lying down can spread your weight differently, placing additional pressure on your lungs and airways.
- The inhalation of allergens and irritants commonly found in the bedroom (eg dust mites, mould, etc.) may trigger asthma symptoms in some people.
- Hormone levels change when we’re resting and at night. It is possible that changes in hormone levels may cause your airways to narrow slightly.
What causes asthma to get worse?
Each individual can have different triggers, which may cause flare-ups of their asthma. Triggers may include respiratory infections, allergens like house dust mite, cigarette smoke or certain medications. These triggers should be avoided wherever possible in order to prevent your asthma worsening. If exercise is causing your asthma to flare-up consistently, to the extent that it is preventing you from exercising, it’s important to consult a doctor. Physical exercise is a necessary aspect of leading a healthy life, so you need to be able to control your asthma enough to allow you to exercise.
Can you prevent asthma?
Although there is emerging research regarding factors that may lead to the development of asthma, there is no reliable evidence that interventions to prevent asthma are effective.
Pregnant women are advised not to smoke and to avoid second hand smoke around the baby and other children. Breastfeeding is recommended where possible and pregnant and breastfeeding women should aim for a healthy, balanced diet with adequate fibre, fruits and vegetables.
Do people outgrow asthma?
Asthma is best considered as a life-long condition. Some people may find that flare-ups of asthma become less frequent as they age, although this may be due to fewer triggers (such as a significant reduction in exercise). For others, asthma may become less severe during the teenage years but return later as an adult.
Book an Asthma Consultation
If you have any further questions, or suspect you or your child may have asthma, book an appointment with a SmartClinics GP to discuss your concerns. We’ll conduct an examination if necessary, make a diagnosis of asthma if appropriate and recommend a treatment plan that will help keep it under control.
Additional resources – Get help with Asthma
Asthma Australia can help you manage your asthma.