Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the airways. The airways are the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. In asthma, the inside walls of the airways are inflamed (swollen). The inflammation makes the airways very sensitive, and they tend to react strongly to things that one is allergic to or find irritating. When the airways react, they get narrower, and less air flows through to the lung tissue.
Common symptoms of an asthmatic episode include:
- lung sounds (audible through a stethoscope),
- Over-inflation of the chest.
The accessory of respiration (sternocleidomastoid and scalene muscles of the neck) may be used, shown as in-drawing of tissues between the ribs and above the sternum and clavicles, and the presence of a paradoxical pulse (a pulse that is weaker during inhalation and stronger during exhalation).
During very severe attack:
An asthma sufferer can turn blue from lack of oxygen, and can experience chest pain or even loss of consciousness. Just before loss of consciousness, there is a chance that the patient will feel numbness in the limbs and palms may start to sweat. Feet may become icy cold.
Despite the severity of symptoms during an asthmatic episode, between attacks an asthmatic may show few signs of the disease.
Complications-Severe asthma attacks, which may not be responsive to standard treatments (status asthmaticus), are life-threatening and may lead to respiratory arrest and death.