Asthma is a chronic lung condition in which the airways get swollen and narrowed, leading to various symptoms like cough, wheezing, chest tightness and breathing difficulty.
While asthma alone can be troublesome, there are many other health conditions that can be associated with asthma. Most of these conditions worsen asthma, while others can be worsened by asthma.
Conditions Linked with Asthma
GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease): It is a digestive disorder in which the acidic stomach content flows back to the throat causing asthma symptoms to aggravate. Asthma and acid reflux (due to GERD) are linked, which means a person with asthma may experience GERD-like symptoms or see a worsening in GERD symptoms (like the acid-reflux) and vice versa.
One of the reasons for the nighttime worsening of asthma is GERD. When we lie down, the acidic content from the stomach can easily flow back to the throat. When this acidic content reaches the throat, it causes or aggravates asthma symptoms. Apart from asthma symptoms, it can also cause sore throat.
The acidic content can also damage the lungs and the vocal cords. In the long term, it can also cause pulmonary fibrosis (it is a lung disease in which the lung tissues become damaged and scarred).
Rhinitis and sinusitis: People with asthma may be at a higher risk of developing other respiratory problems than non-asthmatic people.
Rhinitis is an inflammatory condition of the nose. It causes irritation and inflammation in the mucous membrane lining the nose, while sinusitis is the inflammation of the sinuses. Allergies are one of the most common causes of asthma, sinusitis and rhinitis.
Post-nasal drip (dripping or flowing of the mucus from the back of the throat) is a common symptom of both sinusitis and rhinitis. In post-nasal drip, the mucus from the nose and sinuses reaches the throat, which can cause a sore or scratchy throat and cough (especially at night), thus worsening asthma symptoms. The post-nasal drip can also travel to the stomach leading to nausea and vomiting.
Obstructive sleep apnea: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder in which the airflow to the lungs gets partially obstructed. When the airflow is obstructed, a person may feel difficulty in breathing.
In an asthmatic person, the airways get narrowed and inflamed, which will cause shortness of breath and breathing difficulty. When a person with OSA is sleeping, the airflow can be further restricted, leading to worsening asthma symptoms at night (nocturnal asthma).
Diabetes: Diabetes plays a very important role in the development of asthma. Studies have shown that people with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing asthma. Hence, it is very important for people with diabetes to keep a check on their breathing and lung function apart from their blood sugar levels. Also, people with asthma should get their HbA1c (test to check the blood sugar levels) levels checked regularly.
COPD: COPD and asthma are both lower respiratory problems which show similar symptoms. In some people, asthma and COPD can be seen together.
In COPD and asthma, the airways get inflamed and narrowed, which causes various symptoms like cough, wheezing, chest tightness, and breathing difficulty.
Smoking is the most common cause of COPD, which can also be a cause or triggering factor for occupational asthma.
Obesity: Obesity can increase the risk of developing asthma and vice versa, which means even asthma can increase the risk of obesity. People who are obese are also at a higher risk of asthma exacerbations than people who are lean.
Food allergies: Most childhood asthma is due to food allergies. Also, food allergies can increase the risk of developing asthma in young children.
Food additives can be another reason for the increase in allergies in children.
Heart problems: The risk of heart problems like chest pain and stroke can be increased with asthma.
Since asthma is associated with many health conditions, which can be chronic and life-threatening, it is good to keep control of your asthma. Regular health checkups and taking your medicines can help you control asthma. Apart from this, regular breathing exercises can help improve lung capacity and lung function.
Healthy eating can help improve asthma symptoms. It is proven that foods rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents, and vitamins like A, C, and D are helpful in managing inflammatory conditions like asthma.
Minerals like magnesium, zinc and selenium are beneficial in controlling asthma symptoms.
Also, it is necessary to know what is triggering your asthma so it becomes easier to keep control of it.