Asthma is termed as a chronic inflammatory lung disease caused by the airway’s hypersensitive response to allergic stimuli (dust, pollen, pollution, smoke or unhygienic conditions). This results in the narrowing of airway passages, making it hard to breathe. It is often genetic and passed down from families and precipitated during childhood. Not all individuals who possess the altered genes develop asthma. It depends on their exposure to environmental triggers that are capable to develop airway irritation. Asthma has become a growing problem in today’s generation.
Classification of asthma
Asthma can manifest in various ways. Some cases can be very mild and need little or no medical treatment. Some are severe and life-threatening. Medical professionals rank asthma into four types from mild to severe. These types are determined by the frequency and severity of the asthma symptoms and response to the treatment.
The National Asthma Education and Prevention Program has classified asthma into the following:
- Mild intermittent asthma: The largest number of people with asthma have mild asthma. The symptoms are mild and appear two days a week or two nights a month.
- Mild persistent asthma: The symptoms are mild but occur more than twice a week. For this type of classification, the symptoms do not appear more than once a day.
- Moderate persistent asthma: With moderate persistent asthma, symptoms appear once each day or on most days and at least one night each week.
- Severe persistent asthma: The symptoms appear several times during the day, also many nights each week. It also doesn’t respond well to medications even when taken regularly.
What happens in asthma?
When we breathe in, the air travels through the nose and/or mouth into the trachea (windpipe). The trachea further divides into tubes called bronchi. The bronchi branch out into smaller tubes called bronchioles. The ends of bronchioles open into little air sacs called alveoli, which aid in gas exchange. The alveoli are surrounded by blood vessels through which the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place.
Asthma is a condition that makes breathing difficult. For individuals with asthma, it feels like breathing through a clogged pipe. The attack is generally triggered when the susceptible person is exposed to the specific allergen. The allergen travels down from the respiratory pathways to the lungs. Here, the body’s immune system recognizes these foreign substances as a threat and produces a variety of enzymes and immune cells to eliminate the foreign allergen. These immune cells and enzymes initiate a series of complex reactions that results in the narrowing of airway tubes and buildup of fluid all over the lungs making it difficult to breathe.
What are the signs and symptoms of asthma?
Patients with asthma often suffer periodic attacks and exhibit certain symptoms. They are
- Difficulty in breathing or dyspnea
- Chest tightness
- Wheezing or whistling sound
- Using accessory muscles
- Coughing vigorously
- Grey or blue lips because of decreased oxygen
Lack of proper treatment, care and prolonged exposure to allergic stimuli over time could cause serious lung damage and may result in asthma attacks. This attack can’t be relieved by medications and can lead to a deadly stage known as status asthmatics.
How is asthma treated?
Prevention and long-term control are keys to stopping asthma attacks before they start. Treatment usually involves learning to recognize the triggers, taking steps to avoid triggers and tracking breathing to make sure medications are keeping symptoms under control. It includes