'Journey from Asthma to Emphysema'
|Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D., psychologist
There are hundreds of different types of "asthmas" and "COPDs" and equally numerous are the causes and contributory factors to the progression of the disease. All of us as we embark on our life journey have a unique combination of circumstances and history of confusions, misconceptions and missed opportunities contributing to the progression of the disease. My "Journey from Asthma to Emphysema" is a chapter from the "Travelogue" of my life journey.
"You probably had 'sub-clinical asthma' all your life and you just didn't know it" said a lung specialist friend of mine just a few years ago. He expressed this opinion after carefully reviewing my records and detailed personal history. "Sub-clinical asthma" a term I was hearing for the first time but it made sense. It shed light on many half-understood, half-conjectured and often puzzling experiences I had throughout my life.
That was revelation for a person born during the Second World War. My mother tongue didn't have a separate word for asthma--we used the same word Dama for asthma as well as emphysema. I had always heard that my grandfather died of dama at the age of 32 or 33. To this date, I cannot tell you whether my grandfather died from a horrible untreated asthma attack, lung TB (Tuberculosis), emphysema or all of the above! Medical science and public awareness for differentiating one lung disease from another simply did not exist. As a result it has been hard to provide meaningful family medical history. All I could ever tell my doctors was that my grandfather and a couple of uncles died of "some lung disease."
The term "sub-clinical asthma" for me simply means you don't experience the commonly recognized full-blown asthma attacks but, you might experience other asthma related symptoms such as the chest tightness and pain, shortness of breath or breathing discomfort which can be triggered (or worsened) by a whole host of irritants and allergens and there are plenty of them in our outdoor and indoor environments. I now figure that ongoing inflammation and constriction of the airways and the resulting hypersensitivity of my lungs was the real culprit that caused recurrent cold, cough, low-grade fever and excessive mucus in winter, spring and fall. Add to that the aggravating circumstances of the developing world such as the bio fuels, kerosene, hard coal and wood fire cooking and heating and mix in that concoction plenty of second-hand smoke and you have a powerful recipe for cooking trouble and misery for your poor lungs.
To go back to my childhood "journey," it was the sub-clinical asthma and the aggravating environmental circumstances mainly responsible for my breathing problem. Therefore the removal of tonsils did not provide much relief. I can now understand that those were asthma related symptoms. But then, as a teenager and young adult, my family and I did not have the right information or medical resources. Therefore, whenever I experienced such symptoms as chest pain, tightness and shortness of breath, we blamed everything else except the lungs. First we blamed the tonsils. When we could no longer blame the tonsils, we blamed the "weak heart." For many years, for the supposedly heart problem, I consumed hefty doses of vitamins, juices and tonics and took rest when needed. When such remedies didn't provide much relief, I explained to myself that heart problems stay for life and I just have to learn with it.
Thus, the journey from childhood to adulthood was traveled under the shadow of prurient tonsils and "weak heart."
Vijai has developed two stretching and breathing DVDs specially adapted for people with COPD. For self-care tools, DVDs and articles visit his non-commercial website http://www.mindpub.com/copdhome.htm
Continue to 'Journey from Asthma to Emphysema' Part 3
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