What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic (long-term) lung disease that inflames and narrows the airway which at times causes difficulty in breathing. Asthma symptoms are caused primarily due to constriction, tightening of the muscles surrounding the airways, and inflammation, soreness, swelling and irritation of the airways in the lungs.
Asthma affects people of all ages but it usually starts during childhood. In United States it affects 25 million people, 7 million of which are children.
How are my lungs affected?
The airways are tubes that carry air into and out of your lungs. Asthma patients have inflamed airways. This makes them swollen. They are sensitive and tend to react strongly to certain inhaled substances.
When the airways react, the muscles around them tighten which narrows the airways, causing less air to flow into the lungs.
Click on the simulation to learn more about what happens to your lungs when you have an Asthma attack.
(On the side of the page we need to show the middle simulation from http://www.use-inhalers.com/lung-activity)
For an asthma patient, the airways become hyper responsive to known triggers which causes bronchoconstriction (narrowing of airways), inflammation (swelling of airways) and mucus production. All of these are induced by cellular level changes which include neutrophil (mature white blood cell) and macrophage (type of white blood cell that ingests foreign material) activation, presence of more eosinophils (a type of white blood cell) in allergic cases etc. Due to these changes, there are classical symptoms of asthma which lead to respiratory distress and in severe cases hospitalization.
Asthma Triggers and how to avoid them
Asthma is a reversible disorder, which means that if medications are taken regularly, patients can lead close to a normal life. An asthma patient needs to be aware of the triggers and allergens which are present everywhere and which cause a reaction to their airways. Knowing about common triggers can help you avoid them. Most common Asthma triggers are:
Treatment of Asthma
Asthma, if treated properly can allow you to lead a normal and safe life. The asthma treatment has to be taken on a regular basis to show difference in the lung and thus improvement in asthma outcome. Listed below are the different type of treatments used for Asthma control.
Consequences of not treating Asthma
Those with asthma experience periodic flare-ups during which the bronchial tubes become inflamed. Over time, this inflammatory response causes the walls of the bronchial tubes to thicken. As the walls thicken the airways become narrower. Some airways may become so narrow that they are blocked. To compensate for this, the cells and tissues restructure themselves Although new airways are formed to allow for the passage of air, it remains restricted and the damage is permanent.
If an asthma attack is not treated in a timely fashion, it can become serious and even life-threatening. As the bronchial tubes constrict during an asthma episode the patient may not be able to get enough oxygen leading to respiratory distress. The signs of respiratory distress include an increased breathing rate, a bluish color around the mouth, lips and fingernails, grunting noises during exhalation, nostrils flaring, sweating and wheezing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that in 2008 there were 1.2 asthma related deaths per every 100,000 people. Add to that the 10.6 million doctors' visits and 444,000 hospital stays in which asthma was initially diagnosed and the cost of this disease is well into the billions of dollars.
The American Lung Association estimates that nearly 13 million school days are lost each year by children who miss school due to asthma-related illness and thus miss out on learning time.